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LADIES OP THE PRESS 

Copyright, 1936, by Isbbel Ross 
Printed in the United States of America 
Alt rights in this book are reserved * 

No part of the book may be reproduced in any 
manner whatsoever without written permission . 
For information address 
Harper & Brothers 


FIFTH EDITION 






Chapter I 

FRONT-PAGE GIRL 


F ive years after the Civil War an eighteen-year-old girl 
named Sally Joy left the plush security of her home in Ver- 
mont and talked herself into a job on the Boston Post. It was 
only a matter of weeks until the men in the office were lining the 
floor with papers to keep her white satin ball gown from picking 
up the dust. 

Sally did not need this newsprint carpet laid for her ambitious feet. 
It merely set the key for the befuddled dismay with which the 
normal newspaper man regards the unwelcome sight of a woman 
in the city room. Things have changed in the newspaper world 
since Sally’s time. The typewriter has taken the place of the pen; 
the linotype has supplanted hand composition; there is little dust 
on the floor of the metropolitan city room; and the girl reporter 
rarely shows up during working hours in a white satin gown. 

She must be free to leap nimbly through fire lines, dodge missiles 
at a strike, board a liner from a swaying ladder, write copy calmly 
in the heat of a Senate debate, or count the dead in a catastrophe. 
She never takes time to wonder why someone does not find her a 
chair, change the ribbon of her typewriter or hold smelling salts to 
her nose as she views a scene of horror. 

“I want to be treated like a man,” said Sally, who was a little 
ahead of her time. But she could not persuade her colleagues that she 
was anything, but a helpless female. At first there was indignation 
about having “a woman on the sheet” and the youth assigned to 
escort her to all functions beginning after seven o’clock was the 
butt of the staff. 

But the girl reporter huag on and got her reward. She was 
sent" without masculine aid to cover a suffrage convention in Ver- 



2 


Ladies of the Press 

pretty, piquante, and dresses charmingly. She has a high regard 
for Mrs. Bloomer, although she diverges from that good lady on 
the science of clothes. Miss Joy has made a reputation as a 
newspaper correspondent and reporter of which any man might 
well be proud. And this is saying a good deal for a woman. 
Miss Joy is as independent as she is self-supporting and she votes 
for Woman’s Suffrage. 

Sally was neither the first nor the best of the early women re- 
porters. She was merely the symbol of a point of view that has 
changed surprisingly little in the last half century. She went from 
the Boston Post to the Herald to do a society column. She called 
herself Penelope Penfeather and sometimes wrote about fashions 
and the home. In due time she married and faded into the mists, 
but not until she had helped to found the General Federation of 
Women’s Clubs and had served as the first president of the New 
England Women’s Press Association. 

Her demand to be treated as a man has echoed innumerable times 
in city rooms throughout the country. And all that she stood for 
is still regarded as a threat to the peace, honor and coziness of that 
sound haunt of masculinity— the city room, practically as sacred to 
men as a stag club or the pre-Volstead saloon. 

To-day there are nearly twelve thousand women editors, feature 
writers and reporters in the country. They have found their way 
into all of the large newspaper offices and most of the small ones. 
They have invaded every branch of the business, but have not made 
much impression in the front-page field. 

This does not mean that they have failed to make themselves felt 
in newspaper work; on the contrary, their success has been sub- 
stantial. They hold executive posts. Two have dominant voices in 
important papers on the Eastern seaboard. Many of them edit small 
papers of their own. They run Sunday magazines and book supple- 
ments, write editorials, do politics, foreign correspondence, features, 
straight news, criticism, copy reading and sports writing, as well as 
the old standbys— the woman’s page, clubs and social news. 

They excel in the feature field and dominate the syndicates. They 
stop only at the political cartoon. They function in the advertising, 
business, art, promotion and mechanical/ departments, as well as in 
the editorial rooms. They have arrived, ift a convincing way. But the 
fact remains that they have made surppsingly little progress on the 



Front-page Girl 3 

Whenever possible, they are steered into the quieter by-waters 
of the newspaper plant, away from the main current of life, news, 
excitement, curses and ticker machines. They are segregated where 
their voices will not be heard too audibly in the clatter. They get 
tucked away on the upper floors where the departments flourish. 
They lurk in the library, diligent girls wedded to the files. 

Most of them would rather be where they are. The specialists 
increase in number and usefulness each year. They have better hours, 
fair pay, a more leisured existence. They get their own following. 
They don’t have to beat the drums every day they live. They can 
make dinner engagements and keep them. They have time to buy 
their hats. 

But out in the city room— where high-powered lights blaze on 
rows of desks, where copy readers bend like restless caterpillars over 
the reporter’s work, where the city editor usually resembles a sedate 
professor rather than the Mad Hatter of the films, where phones 
jangle and tickers click— only two or three women can be found, 
working quietly at their typewriters in a fog of abstraction. 

They are the front-page girls who somehow have weathered 
storms of prejudice— the odd creatures who have been pictured as 
doing things only slightly more impossible than they all have at- 
tempted at one time or another. They are on the inner newspaper 
track. They are there because they have felt the bewitchment of 
a compelling profession. There is little else they can do once they 
have tasted its elixir. Strange music sings in their ears. Visions haunt 
them as they walk the streets. They fall asleep with the sound of 
rumbling presses in their heads. They have seen too much and it 
hasn’t been good for their health. 

For the woman reporter goes beyond the news into the raw ma- 
terial from which it springs. She catches the rapt look of the genius 
and the furtive glance of the criminal. She detects the lies, the de- 
bauchery and the nobility of her fellow men. She watches the meek 
grow proud and the proud turn humble. She marvels only when 
people who have feared publicity get drunk with it, and strain 
for a place on the front page. 

She walks unscathed through street riots, strikes, fires, catastrophes 
and revolution, her press card opening the way for her. She watches 
government in the making, sees Presidents inaugurated, Kings 
crowned, heroes acclaimed, champions launched on the world. She 
has a bannuet seat with the miffhtv^She travels far and wide in 



4 Ladies of the Press 

tragedy. News visits a home most often to annihilate it. The shadow 
of a reporter falling across the doorstep may presage the collapse 
of a lifetime of work. The woman reporter must face harsh facts 
without any qualms about her business. She must be ready for such 
hazards as may befall her. She must be calm and full of stamina. 
For she will savor strange bitters as well as alluring sweets; endure 
fatigue and disappointment beyond reason; withstand rebuffs that 
wither or exhilarate in turn; meet abuse with the equanimity bom 
of self-control; and function with complete belief in what she is 
doing and loyalty to her paper. 

She must have a sound sense of the values of life and great ca- 
pacity to withstand the shocks of human emotion. She must see 
with clairvoyance, judgment or experience the salient points of any 
situation; be resourceful and good-natured; have initiative and 
enough perception to avoid being taken in. She must know how to 
get her facts, to weigh them with sagacity and, above all, how to 
write. 

Where is this paragon to be found? No editor believes that she 
exists. She probably doesn’t. And if she did, she would not have much 
chance to prove it, for although women have hit the sky in feature 
writing, they still have a long way to go to establish themselves 
as first-string news reporters. There have been no great women war 
correspondents. Few have written well on politics or economics, 
although Anne O’Hare McCormick, Dorothy Thompson and Ruth 
Finney are striking exceptions. But in the feature field they are hard 
to beat. They cover the town. They write with an interpretative 
touch. They put more emotion, more color, more animation into 
their work than the first-string girls. This is the special field for 
women. They get opportunities and they do it well. There were 
four at the Thaw trial in 1907. Dozens crowded the press rows at 
the Hauptmann trial twenty-eight years later. They have the ex- 
citement of going out on the big stories without the strain and re- 
sponsibility of writing the news leads. They rarely have to bother 
with trivial events, but go from one major assignment to another. 
They are valued for their capacity to write. 

With a smooth touch and a dramatic senlse they often make names 
for themselves. Their salaries go up in proportion. The brightest and 
the most original step into the syndicate field. But the front-page 
girl is essentially an anonymous creaturfe, a hard-working wretch 
who does not lightly exchange her job tor the softer road. 



Front-page Girl j 

least to her. A few hours earlier she watched the scene, talked to the 
people about whom she writes. There is speed and flavor to this 
rapid transfer of thought. In another twenty-four hours she will 
scarcely find the story readable, so soon does newsprint grow cold. 
But for the moment it possesses her imagination. 

She cares little if she eats or sleeps until it is finished and the last 
fact is carefully checked and fitted into its niche. She moves in a 
trance. She forgets that she has a home, a husband, a child, a family. 
She hangs on by day and night, so physically exhausted that her 
head sings, waiting to get what she is after. In some respects she is 
almost as spectacular as the movies have made her; in others, she is 
a weary drudge, coping with minor obstacles. 

But when things are running high, and her assignment first 
rank, nothing stops her— neither storm, fire, frost, broken-down tele- 
graph wires nor the rudeness of man. She is an implacable creature, 
bent on gaining her ends. When the story is in the paper, she rarely 
remembers what she has suffered in the pursuit of news. The excite- 
ment is its own anesthesia. Nothing is left but the afterglow. 

So it never surprises her to hear an eager girl say, “How thrilling! 

I should love to do newspaper work.” The girl is right. It is. The 
picture is not overdrawn. But good candidates for the job are rare. 
They are usually freaks who have landed head first at their goal, 
either by opportunity, hard work or luck— most often luck. Few 
wowen have what Mrs. Eleanor Medill Patterson, of the Washington 
Herald , calls flash in the handling of news. It’s a gift that no school 
of journalism, no city editor, can impart. 

The front-page girl has everything against her at the start. She 
may write quite well. She often does. But the most delicate test 
a reporter meets is in marshaling facts and assembling a big news 
story in perfect proportion, under pressure. This calls for lucid 
thinking, good judgment, and absolute clarity of style. The pace is* 
like lightning. The most experienced men sometimes fumble among 
the countless intricate threads when hell is let loose too close to the 
deadline. 

The woman reporter rarely gets the chance to try it. This is 
where she falls down flat in her editor’s estimation, for it is the job 
that the star reporter is paid to do. It is his chief function for the 
paper. On the big story her vision is apt to be close and her factual 
grasp inadequate. The broad view is needed for a sound round-up. 



6 Ladies of the Press 

time element is of the utmost importance. If they fail, the paper 
is the loser. On the morning paper there is usually more time to 
pick up the stray ends when a woman has muffed her job. A crack 
rewrite desk is always waiting to iron out the imperfections of the 
reporters who go out on the street. 

But city editors rarely take chances. They want complete relia- 
bility. They can’t depend on the variable feminine mechanism. They 
might get a superb job. They might get a dud. No allowances are 
made for the failure of the woman reporter. She must stand on her 
own feet and prove her worth every day. When she draws a big 
story she is definitely on the spot. Nothing anywhere is going to 
help her, except her own intelligence and quick-trigger thinking. 
When a train has been wrecked, three hundred are dead, contradic- 
tory facts are pouring in on her and it is right on the deadline, all the 
copy-book rules melt away and she simply has to use her head. 

There is no covering up as she sits before her typewriter with the 
lead story of the day at her mercy. The words must rip from her 
fingers in orderly procession. The facts behind them must be sharp 
and clear and the balance perfect. There are no excuses when the 
paper comes up and the lead story is feeble. The front page is exact- 
ing. The front-page girl had better know her stuff if she wants to 
function under the garish lights that bum down on the city room, 
revealing the flaws in her equipment with shocking candor. 

This, definitely, is where women have made little headway and 
probably never will. It is the inadequacy that keeps them from rank- 
ing with the men stars. It has no bearing on their success in other 
newspaper departments, but it is the real reason why there is such 
a small percentage of women reporters on any large paper, in any 
part of the country. , 

Their second big hazard is in handling groups of men, which 
they must inevitably do on a first-string assignment. This is al- 
ways a ticklish matter, although it has been done repeatedly with 
success. The best-natured newspaperman in the world— and they 
are an amiable and generous lot— is not apt to relish taking orders 
from a woman reporter. Yet back in the nineties Mabel Craft, of the 
San Francisco Chronicle , led a squad of men/ in a leaky launch 
through the Golden Gate to meet the ; ships /returning from the 
Spanish-American War. The Examiner cfew vms already under way 
in a fine large tug. A storm was raging, they v , ’ warned that their 



Front-page Girl 7 

sea-worthy tug. They started off again and met the ships. They 
wrote their stories on the way in, with the tug lurching under them. 
Their editors were frantic by the time they showed up, waving their 
copy in their hands. It was the story of the year and they made it 
by a margin of minutes. They were not scooped by the Examiner . 
This was remarkable in the nineties. It would be remarkable to-day. 

But here and there throughout the country there have always 
been girls who could meet the front-page test. Within recent years 
they have had more opportunity. The press services have given 
them golden chances. So have some of the conservative papers. 

Lorena Hickok repeatedly wrote the news leads on stories of na- 
tional importance for the Associated Press, which has gone in 
heavily for women after years of indifference to their merits. Gene- 
vieve Forbes Herrick brought distinction to her craft by her work 
for the Chicago Tribune. She outmatched her competitors time and 
again, doing the major stories of the day with grace, speed and 
accuracy. Marjorie Driscoll, of the Los Angeles Examiner , is another 
example of the finest type of news writer. 

Grace Robinson has starred so often in the role of front-page girl 
that she has no competitor in the number of big stories she has 
covered within a given period of time. She did the Hall-Mills and 
the Snyder-Gray trials for the New York Daily News, and scores of 
other assignments that any man might envy. Elenore Kellogg, who 
died in the summer of 1935, led the World repeatedly with bril- 
liantly handled news stories, and had the satisfaction of seeing her 
work under banner heads. Ruth Finney, a Scripps-Howard star, tops 
the field for Washington. She has achieved spectacular success in the 
political field and ranks with the best men in the Press Gallery. 

These six are perfect examples of the successful front-page girl. 
They represent press services, conservative papers and tabloid jour- 
nalism. They could handle any story from any given angle and 
walk away with the honors. They are the best refutation of all the 
criticism that has been leveled at the woman reporter. They have 
proved that a woman can cover a news story of prime importance 
as well as a man. 

They have starred in the metropolitan field— the most severe test 
of all. Women get better front-page opportunities in smaller cities. 
A nuihber throughout the country can point to front-page stream- 
ers, stories leading the paper, a heavy play on the big assignments 
of the dav. But there are not enough of them to make much differ- 



8 Ladies of the Press 

measured by her opportunity. It is the conviction of every woman 
reporter of wide experience that she could match the best of the 
men if she had half a chance. The point is debatable. The city editor 
—chivalrous soul— keeps her down for two reasons: he doubts her 
capacity, and he hates to throw her to the wolves in the rough and 
tumble of big news events. He handles her with kid gloves when she 
wouldn’t object to brass knuckles. He would rather she went home 
and never bothered him again. 

However, if she has failed to make much headway with the city 
editor, she has attained some solid standing with her fellow workers 
in the city room. She can sit at adjoining desks with the reigning 
stars and neither be scorned nor pampered. No man needs to lay 
newsprint for her capable feet, or even spell a word for her. All 
that she ever asks him for is a match. 

It is much more likely that the front-page girl will help her col- 
league with his story when he has been wooing the bottle, console 
him the night his sixth child is born, admire its picture a few weeks 
later, spur his ambition to write a great novel, or help him to buy a 
birthday present for his wife. She clucks over him like a mother hen. 
She nearly always likes him. It never occurs to her that he stands in 
her way and keeps her from the best assignments. 

One of the more benign aspects of her job is the good fellowship 
of the men on the paper. They accept her as part of the newspaper 
picture. She sits with them through the mad hours of a political 
convention, writing quite sensible copy; she appears at the prize 
ring, unmoved by the noise and gore; she bobs up at a disaster and 
never lets her feelings get in her way. She isn’t insensitive. Good 
reporters rarely are dead to what they see. They are objective first; 
but they must interpret the passions of their fellow men with some 
degree of insight. The apathetic man or woman does not make a fine 
reporter. The harp should twang a bit. 

The woman reporter may be a paradoxical person, gentle in her 
private life, ruthless at her work. She may be of any age, type or 
race. She may be blonde, red-haired or brunette— a scholar who 
labors over polished phrases, or a rough and tumble slang expert 
who jollies die bailiff. Sometimes she is small, demure and savage; 
sometimes big, brassy and soft-hearted. Oi^e never can tell. She may 
wear pearls and orchids, be a debutante ahd sport a title, or shuffle 
along, a weary beldame with faded hair. 

The outer shell has litde to do with the value of a good reporter. 
The shrinking ones^e often the lion-hearted: a feather ma v rock 



Front-page Girl 9 

group of women reporters to-day is one of good grooming, per- 
sonality and poise. They have lost their distraught look somewhere 
along the years. 

Forty years ago a few glamour girls got loose among the stringy- 
looking spinsters whose hair was always ruffled and whose shirt- 
waists bulged. But they were the exceptions. In the late nineties 
there was the general feeling that only a homely woman would 
barge out of the home and neglect her social life in order to write 
for the papers. But William Randolph Hearst took the stuffing 
out of this tradition by employing handsome girls with Lillian Rus- 
sell figures and Harrison Fisher profiles; and Elizabeth Jordan, work- 
ing for Joseph Pulitzer, so overawed Benjamin Harrison’s butler 
with her elegant costume and ostrich feathers that she marched in 
and got a presidential interview at Cape May, when the door was 
closed to all other reporters. 

To-day, the more smoothly they fit into the social scene the better 
their editors like it. If they must be eccentric and wear odd hats, 
their work should be good enough to justify it. An untidy woman 
is as out of date in the metropolitan newspaper office as papers on 
the floor, cigarette butts burning holes in the desks, or hats tossed 
blithely in the waste-paper baskets. 

On the other hand, the girl reporter should not be too beguiling. 
When she dazzles the cubs and starts the copy boys writing poems, 
her stock begins to go down. Trouble, beauty and sex are threats 
in any city room, and the three can telescope remarkably quickly 
into one. Some gorgeous peonies have bloomed among the type- 
writers and ticker machines. The tabloids welcome them and en- 
courage the ornamental touches. They argue that face, figure and 
clothes help to make the good woman reporter. They have proved 
the point repeatedly, but the rule is not infallible. 

The most sensible usually make the best reporters. The women 
who have gone farthest in journalism are not those who have yipped 
most loudly about their rights. Unless aggressiveness is backed by 
real ability, as in Rheta Childe Dorr’s case, it is only a boomerang. 
Nothing has done more to keep women reporters in the shade. 
Peace at any price is the city room philosophy. 

It is absurd to maintain that a woman can do everything a man 
can do on a paper. She can’t get into the Lotus Club in New York, 
or cross the Harvard Club threshold. She is denied the chummy 
barroom confidences of the politician, and cannot very well invade a 
Senator’s room in Washington when he has no time to answer her 
questions exeept-as he changes for dinner. 



io Ladies of the Press 

velt’s Monday morning conferences. The youths who are picked for 
the pink tea assignments are welcomed with joy at the woman’s 
meeting. It is a sad reflection for the woman reporter who swears 
by her sex that the most pampered scribe at feminine gatherings is 
usually a man— and a man who would rather not be there. 

But admitting that there are a few places from which women 
reporters are debarred, this is scarcely an important argument against 
their usefulness. It has no more significance than the inability of a 
man to write a good fashion story without expert aid. The functions 
of the city staff are always interchangeable. A woman may cover a 
subway wreck and a man do a fashion show on the same afternoon, 
with excellent results in both cases. A good reporter can do telling 
work with almost any set of facts, short of relativity. He need not be 
a specialist. He need not even be initiated. 

But the feeling is there and the seasoned newspaper woman has 
to recognize it. If she is wise she will go on her way, taking things 
in her stride. She will not fuss over periods of quiet. She will mind 
her own business, take the assignments handed out to her and never 
grouse unduly. She cannot always live in the news writer’s seventh 
heaven. There are dull days with nothing but obits to write. But 
as sure as she lives, news will stir again. She will watch it rustle 
through the office. The city editor will come over to her, hand her 
a bulletin, and from this cryptic note may spring the story of the 
decade. 

For news breaks with astonishing speed. It strikes a newspaper 
office like lightning. The front-page girl feels its impact from day 
to day. She never quite gets hardened to the sudden jolt when she 
sees a well-known name obviously bound for the gutter in a four- 
line bulletin, or hears a voice giving her the incredible news over 
the telephone: “Wall Street has just been bombed. Will you hurry 
down and see what’s doing.” 

Not until a story is focused in black type does it have much 
reality for her, so absorbed is she in the mechanics of what she is 
doing. Yet this is the eternal fascination of her profession— to be in 
the thick of things; to move always where life is stirring; to have 
a grand-stand seat at the world events of the day, yet without 
responsibility for anything that may happen, beyond the task of 
turning out a good story on what she has seen and heard. She writes 
before the fever of the moment passes. Her best work is tom from 
her, take by take, under pressure. She lives herself through the 
news. If she is skilled at her job, she manages to convey the excite- 
ment to her readers. 



XI 


Front-page Girl 

gatherer. There are men who work year after year for their papers 
and never actually write a line of copy. But the front-page girl must 
have a facile touch. The only way in which she can hope to prove 
her superiority is by the excellence of her style. She is rarely a 
wizard at getting facts. 

The doubts raised by editors about her are legion. Can she write? 
Usually. Can she spell? At least as well as her masculine colleagues, 
often better. Is she lacking in a sense of humor? Probably, but only 
to the same degree as the rest of her sex. It doesn’t make much 
difference to her paper. Is she emotional in her work? Rarely. Re- 
porting now is largely realistic, except for the occasional word 
orgies at a sensational trial, and then it is an assumed frenzy, done 
with the tongue in the cheek. News writers have too much sense 
to beat their breasts in public now. Their editors no longer expect 
it. The public would laugh. 

But the most serious charge brought against the newspaper woman 
is inaccuracy. This is the one real chink in her armor. Precision of 
thought is the first requisite of good reporting. As far back as 1898 
Arnold Bennett seized on this weakness in the woman reporter. His 
criticism is much the same as the city editor’s to-day. No amount of 
careful work has served to uproot it. Even the most unprejudiced 
editor shudders a little when a new woman walks through the city 
room. Will her sentences parse? Will she get the paper in a libel 
suit? Will she verify every fact? Will she know how to round up 
a story? Will she cause trouble in the office? He values the women 
who happen to have succeeded in his own organization, but he 
thinks of them always as the exceptions. He has not yet been able to 
accept the species without reservation. 

Therefore, the newspaper woman has to be twice as careful as 
the newspaper man in order to make headway at all. The tradition 
of sloppy work dies hard. She has every reason to worry when the 
copy boy brings the wet paper fresh from the presses and lays it on 
her desk. There is something particularly appalling about the error 
in print. Her eye rushes to the head the copy reader has given her 
story. It isn’t vanity that makes her read every line with care. She is 
desperately anxious to know if everything is right. 

The layman who cherishes the foolish belief that only half of 
what he reads in a newspaper is true, never dreams of the conscien- 
tious work that lies behind the columns he hastily scans. No human 
being but a well-trained reporter would hunt through five books 
of reference to get a middle initial correct. No one else would find 



12 Ladies of the Tress 

believes that he is slipshod, inaccurate, a deliberate falsifier. In actual 
fact, the conscientious news writer on a responsible paper is the most 
slavishly exact person in the world. He splits hairs and swears by 
books of reference. He has, a passion for verification, an honest love 
for facts. The good woman reporter has the same exacting code. 
The crispness of her style, the keen viewpoint, the explicit phrase, 
the potent paragraph, are all nullified if she does not have the essen- 
tial newspaper virtue of absolute accuracy. 

Often her early training has a bearing on the exactitude of her 
mental processes. The newspaper women have arrived at their vari- 
ous goals by odd routes. They have taught and nursed and been 
stenographers. They have scrubbed floors and sold in shops and 
danced in the chorus. The present tendency is for them to break in 
fresh from college. Some have wandered into the profession by acci- 
dent; others have battered their way in; a few have simply walked 
in the front door without knocking. But the same spirit of enter- 
prise has propelled most of them into the exciting newspaper game. 

In their off-moments they have unexpected tastes. There is no 
consistency in them. The girl who is most at home inside fire lines, 
checking up on casualties, is apt to spend her days off weeding her 
garden or reading Pater. She may worm her way into jail or sit 
without blinking as a jury condemns a man to death, but when she 
gets home she is likely to turn thoroughly feminine. She wants a 
quiet evening with her husband, an hour’s play with her baby, a 
chance to mix a salad or knit a sweater. 

She is often a little sharp of tongue, because she has listened to so 
much rot. She has seen strange things of which most women never 
dream. She is neither the terrible hard-boiled reporter who beats the 
town nor the angel-faced cutie who wins her way by guile. As a 
rule she is matter-of-fact. The code of her profession is an intangible 
one, not generally understood. She must be resourceful with honor, 
searching without being rude; she must not be put off easily by the 
lies constantly flung in her face; she must sense jhe important, dis- 
card the trivial, have a sense of proportion and the ability to make 
subtle decisions between right and wrong. She must build her own 
code as she moves, for the copy-book standards scarcely cover her 
profession. 

On the whole, newspaper women make few demands on their 
city editors. They would gladly work for nothing, rath*r than be 
denied the city room. They scarcely ever fuss about their salaries, 
which range from $35 to $150 a week in the large cities, and from 



Front-page Girl 13 

in g faith in what they are doing. They are seldom lazy. But the 
highest compliment to which the deluded creatures respond is the 
city editor’s acknowledgment that their work is just like a man’s. 
This automatically gives them a complacent glow, for they are all 
aware that no right-minded editor wants the so-called woman’s 
touch in the news. 

The fact remains that they never were thoroughly welcome in 
the city room and they are not quite welcome now. They are there 
on sufferance, although the departments could scarcely get along 
without them. But if the front-page girls were all to disappear to- 
morrow no searching party would go out looking for more, since it 
is the fixed conviction of nearly every newspaper executive that a 
man in the same spot would be exactly twice as good. 

They may listen to smooth words and chivalrous sentiments, but 
what every city editor thinks in his black but honest heart is: 
“Girls, we like you well enough but we don’t altogether trust you.” 



Chapter II 
STEPPING OUT 


N ewspaper women had to go in for dizzy self-exploitation 
before they could make themselves heard at all. The faint 
rustlings of the mid-Victorian era grew to a roar when the 
stunt age was launched by Nellie Bly. Up to that time their efforts 
had been desultory. But Nellie stormed Joseph Pulitzer, then the 
town, then the country, then the globe, which she circumnavigated 
faster than Phileas Fogg. 

It was not an easy victory for the ladies of the press. Their suffer- 
ings were horrible. But they also had fun. And finally they got 
what they wanted. From stunts, crusades and coercing the woman's 
point of view in the news, a fallacious idea which they have aban- 
doned long since, they have progressed to sound achievement on the 
plane of common sense. They no longer have to climb skyscrapers 
by rope or wear false faces to get their stuff in the papers. They 
do it on a workmanlike basis. 

In four decades their interests and technique have changed. 
Broadly speaking, 1890-1900 was the stunt era; 1900-1910 the sob 
era; 1910-1920 the suffrage era; and 1920-1930 the tabloid era. They 
have followed the trend of the news and of their papers. The girl 
on the conservative paper has tempered her style to suit its frame; 
the tabloid girl has gingered hers up, however sober her tastes. 

It was hard to get the woman idea across from any ajigle while 
antimacassars were still in vogue. Housewives did not read the papers 
before 1870 and there were no careerists. All attempts to snare their 
interest were coldly met until frills and cabinet pudding recipes 
were launched in occasional columns hopefully captioned “For the 
Ladies.” The modem woman who reads her paper from the front 
page to the back does not inherit this taste from her grandmother. 

But in 1834 Ann Oddbody launched a p*per called Woman at a 
time when only a lady mattered. It died so quickly that no copies 
have survived. “There is’ a paper Mm pu blished, whv shall not a 



Stepping Out 1 5 

Two years later, with the Sun, Herald and Tribune all doing well 
in New York, William Newell conceived the idea that there must be 
a feminine public lurking somewhere among the tidies and whatnots, 
if only he could reach it. He decided to go after it on deeply moral 
grounds. On April 30, 1836, the first issue of his paper appeared with 
this announcement: 

The Ladies Morning Star will sustain the character of a 
Literary, Moral Newspaper, which it shall be the endeavor of 
the proprietor to enrich with every variety that may improve 
and adorn the female mind, enlarge and strengthen the under- 
standing, purify the soul, and refine the senses. . . . 

However, it was not the most auspicious year for the moral tone. 
The first murder to attract public attention in America had occurred 
a month earlier, when Helen Jewett was found dead in a house of 
ill-fame at 41 Thomas Street, a copy of Lady Blessington’s Flowers 
of Loveliness beside her. 

James Gordon Bennett rushed at once to the scene, interviewed 
the buxom Mrs. Rosina Townsend who had found Helen’s body, 
and wrote a lively first-page interview for the Herald. He followed 
this with an attack on civic complacency; he quoted fallen women 
and he badgered public officials. The circulation of his paper went 
up 3,000 in a single week, and some of the editions sold for a shilling 
instead of a penny. The population of New York was then nearly 
200,000 and Broadway was lined with Lombardy poplars. 

A young clerk named Richard P. Robinson was charged with 
the crime, had a cheering section at his trial, and went scot free. 
All the husbands in town were talking about Helen Jewett, and 
their wives heard the echoes. They were far from pleased when the 
Ladies Morning Star decided to ignore the case, except for pious 
editorials in which the editor pointed out the lessons to be drawn 
from the vicious lives of the principals. 

There seemed to be nothing of distinctive interest for women in 
the reading matter of the Star. One of the early items was a lugu- 
brious poem by Mrs. Sigourney on seeing an infant prepared for 
the grave. In the same issue the leading article was based on the 
“operative class of female,” more commonly known now as the 
working girl. 

The Star staggered along, keeping up the moral tone, but at the 
end of three months the circulation was only 2,000 and there was no 
advertising. The merchants objected vigorously to spending money 



1 6 Ladies of the Press 

Many mercantile gentlemen of high and honourable standing, 
have objected to inserting their ads in our paper, on account 
of what they consider the singularity of its name, and express 
their conviction that if its title were altered, and if it were called 
simply The Morning Star without the prefixture of the word 
Ladies it would not only obtain a much more extensive sub- 
scription, but also ten times the amount of advertising patron- 
age, which they even promise to ensure us, if the change be 
made. 

Although the name was changed, the lofty editorial tone was 
maintained. But the women of New York did not respond, the adver- 
tiser saw no hope, and the Star folded quietly. The noble experiment 
had failed. There is nothing to show that Mr. Newell consulted or 
employed a woman in getting out his paper. 

Horace Greeley had a better idea soon after that. In the early 
forties he asked Margaret Fuller to write for the Tribune. She was 
the first really distinguished woman writer to contribute to an 
American paper. Mr. Greeley was a dominant figure in journalism at 
the time. He went about town in an old felt hat, his neckcloth awry, 
his trousers out of shape, his white coat bedraggled. He did not make 
the mistake of asking Miss Fuller to write for women. He employed 
her to write soundly for his flourishing journal. The idea spread. In 
1850 Mrs. Jane Swisshelm invaded the Press Gallery and got the first 
foothold in the political field. She was followed by Grace Green- 
wood and Gail Hamilton, who did politics with a masculine touch. 

In the fifties Jenny June and Fanny Fern launched a new school 
of journalism. They brought tears, fashions, recipes and women’s 
problems out into the open. They went after the feminine public, 
from arrowroot to the new chignon. The languid heads swayed 
feebly on the antimacassars. There was a flicker of interest. From 
their early efforts sprang the woman’s page of today, still the point 
of focus for the woman reporter. Jenny June took a desk in the 
city room, the first day-by-day reporter. Fanny cut fabulous didoes 
at $100 a column. 

It was still the age of dilatory correspondence. Tie papers were 
swamped with charming letters in violet ink. They came from 
Washington, Hawaii, Europe— wherever the roaming correspondents 
happened to be. Editors were glad to print them. They didn’t in- 
volve a woman underfoot in the office. Space rates were low. News 
was scarce. Essays were welcome to fill up the wide columns of 
hand-set agate that were read by gaslight. The newspaper world was 



Stepping Out 17 

It mattered little if the items had news interest. When the imagina- 
tion failed a couplet would always work. Few of the correspondents 
had yet conceived the idea of getting on the staff of a paper. Only 
the female operatives bothered about jobs. 

Ten years later Nellie Bly appeared, introducing the stunt age in 
journalism. She was followed by a wild outcropping of girls who 
freely risked their lives and reputations in order to crash the papers. 
Nothing stopped them. By this time they were more aggressive and 
were after jobs. They posed with equal nonchalance as beggars, 
balloonists, street women, servants, steel workers, lunatics, shop girls 
and Salvation Army lassies. They bothered the preachers and stam- 
peded the town. 

They had ample opportunity to use their ingenuity, for in 1895 
Mr. Hearst invaded the New York field, taking the feeble Journal 
and building it up right under Mr. Pulitzer’s nose. Both publishers 
went in for sensationalism. The competition was terrific. If the 
World had a stunt, the Journal went one better. Heavy streamers, 
such as New Yorkers never had seen, met them at every corner. 
Yellow journalism whetted the appetite of the public. Circulation 
figures leaped to extravagant heights. The town was amused, en- 
tertained, flabbergasted. 

The hot competition was good for the working press. Arthur 
Brisbane, who had had great success with the Sunday World , joined 
Mr. Hearst and the battle raged more fiercely than ever. They in- 
vaded the afternoon field with the Evening Journal In 1896 they 
got out a Sunday supplement with colored illustrations called the 
Woman's Home Journal . All the papers by now were making a play 
for women readers. The syndicate idea had been launched. Even in 
1892 the Herald had characterized the Recorder as a woman’s paper. 
And the Recorder flattered itself on having rounded up 100,000 
women readers. 

By the end of the golden nineties it was either clothes and the 
cookery book, or the stunt girl. The reader could take his choice. 
The one class had little respect for the other. Then, as now, there 
was a sharp division between the sober and the sensational press. 
The reactionaries were scornful of Nellie and her copyists, who 
went them one better, however, by being featured on posters and 
billboards. A frustrated colleague wrote self-righteously that Nellie 
had “prostituted her womanhood for the sake of a good story.” The 
stunt girls earned from $50 to $100 a week. The conservatives drew* 
jdown from $25 to $50, if they could get jobs at all. 

Elizabeth L. Banks whipped up interest ij^ the subject with her 

Hal, The Am&Xlkzraphy oVa Newspaper Girl. Elizabeth was a 
-haired,, girl from who hid under a desk 



1 8 Ladies of the Tress 

in the local room when lightning filled her with fear. But later she 
learned to be brave in London. She worked as a servant, a flower 
girl, a crossing sweeper. She mingled with rag-pickers; she made 
artificial flowers; she worked in sweat shops. For the time being she 
was a minor sensation in the English press. She went to Hawarden 
Castle to interview Gladstone but could not batter her way past 
Mrs. Gladstone. 

Then she returned to America and invaded Park Row in a new 
Knox hat and a tailor-made suit of the latest cut. She carried cam- 
phor and smelling salts, an alligator card case and an ivory-handled 
umbrella with which she waved office boys out of her way. But 
she refused to walk along Broadway and let herself be arrested— 
a stunt suggested by an editor who had become hardened to the 
self-immolation of the stunt girls. She made up for it by touring 
the sweat shops, crawling down the funnel of the comic little 
Holland Boat, and otherwise cutting capers in the approved manner 
of the sisterhood. 

Then one day Mr. Hearst turned down a stunt suggestion. This 
was significant. The frenzy had passed. The public was tired of the 
daredevil girls. The space system was opening the way for the less 
nimble members of the profession. The reception rooms of news- 
paper offices always had a line of nervous spinsters in gored skirts, 
waiting patiently to see the editor. They came armed with ideas and 
scribbling pads. They got about town, nosed out events not regu- 
larly covered, and submitted their copy hopefully. If they hit the 
mark now and again they were grateful; if they kept it up, some- 
times they landed steady jobs. 

The amateur news hound was never ignored. Her offerings had 
potential value. Nowadays the news services have the field so com- 
pletely covered in metropolitan centers that there is no use rushing 
to the fire without an executive order, unless, as sometimes happens, 
the tip is exclusive. But things were not like this in the nineties. The 
casual bearer of news was encouraged. There was none of the mod- 
em network that draws the strings of the world’s news together, 
concentrates it on a few high-powered desks, then sprays it to papers 
everywhere. 

The newspaper women worked without telephone, typewriter 
or taxi. The first of the telephones was installed in 1877, but the 
heroine of the day’s story never seemed to have one in her house, 
and the papers made sparing use of this luxury. An important quali- 
fication was to write a legible hand. Good spelling was more of an 
asset than it is now, when some of the most learned reporters boast 
of their bad spelling and let the copy desk worry about the conse- 



Stepping Out 19 

quences. But in the candlelight era it was a shocking disgrace, a mark 
of ignorance, a social flaw of the worst order. 

When something really serious was on foot for the woman re- 
porter, an errand boy in blue ran up the stoop of her brownstone 
house with a message summoning her to the office post haste. She 
pinned on her sailor, gathered her skirts and rushed for the trolley 
to take her down to Park Row. 

The life of the society reporter was particularly cruel. The ele- 
gant girls with hour-glass figures were sometimes allowed victorias 
in place of the trolley to take them from house to house, so that 
they could find out what the beau monde would wear at the party 
that night. If they preferred, they could always use their bicycles. 

“What! You made only six calls today?” an editor shouted at one 
girl indignantly when she came in with meager scraps. 

But their experiences with the party guests were much more har- 
rowing. 

“My gown! What impertinence!” a girl reporter heard the 
dowager say to the butler. “Tell the young person certainly not.” 

So she whirled away on her bicycle empty-handed, her lace petti- 
coat brushing her black lisle stockings, her head seething with rage 
under a monster hat. But no matter how sharp the rebuff, Mrs. A’s 
brocade and Mrs. B’s point lace were properly chronicled in the 
paper. Society had not yet been put in its place. It was still firmly 
entrenched on the front page. The Bradley-Martin ball was the talk 
of the town for a year. So was the Marlborough-Vanderbilt 
wedding. 

Next to society, the most important function of a woman on a 
conservative paper was to cover teas and clubs. The American 
woman was just becoming club-conscious. She was getting out of 
the home. She was beginning to think about suffrage. She was dis- 
covering that a club row was as stimulating as a spat with her 
husband. About this time city editors got into the habit of greeting 
their women reporters back from a club meeting with: “Were they 
funny or did they fight?” Otherwise, there was no story. It was 
not until after the vote had been won that women’s meetings became 
straight news. Up to that time they supplied the city room with 
merriment. 

The Spanish-American War cut the earnings of the newspaper 
girls, for the papers were filled with war news. But one of them 
staked a claim to momentary fame as Admiral Dewey’s “tut tut” 
girl. She was Norah Donnelly, a beauty who wore white lace and 
magnificent large black hats with poppies. She was young, and in- 
experienced in newspaper technique. 



zo Ladies of the Press 

When the Admiral was welcomed home she got aboard his ship. 
She waited until the other reporters had finished with him, then she 
dashed up and waved a small American flag in his face. Overcome 
with emotion, she burst into tears. The Admiral looked surprised. 
He patted her shoulder. “Tut, tut, little girl, don’t cry,” he im- 
plored her. 

A colleague wrote the story for the Journal. It carried a hand- 
some streamer in red: “Tut, tut, Little Girl, Said the Admiral 
Kindly.” Mr. Hearst saw it, was furious, ordered it killed. It lasted 
through one edition only. Soon afterwards Norah went on the stage. 
Then she married. She never went back to newspaper work. 

By this time Dorothy Dix and Beatrice Fairfax were becoming 
household names through syndicate distribution. Winifred Black 
was roving over the country on first-string assignments for Mr. 
Hearst. Elizabeth Jordan was doing effective work for the Sunday 
World. Zona Gale was writing for the Evening World but was not 
showing any particular promise. Kate Field was getting out her 
journal in Washington. Margaret Sullivan and Mary Abbott were 
the reigning stars in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune had sixteen 
women in all its departments in 1 896. It has more than four hundred 
now. 

The woman’s angle was being played hard. It was not the news 
event that mattered but the woman writer’s reactions to it. She 
was allowed to sit at a desk in the city room, which a contemporary 
described as “the dirty, dingy, tobacco-polluted local room.” The 
city editor shouted for her just as he did for the men. He told her 
to “rush it lively,” in the brisk slang of the day. Her colleagues 
had abandoned the notion that they must leap to their feet at her 
appearance, put their pipes in their pockets, or take off their hats. 
They cursed and they drank as freely as if she were not anywhere 
about. But they never took her work seriously. There were as many 
as five women on some of the dailies. Others had one or two. But 
their status was ignominious, except for such stars as Mrs. Black, 
Miss Jordan and a few others. 

However, the first big step had been taken. The syndicate idea 
was now established. Riches and journalistic fame were on the way 
for the smart woman writer. In 1884 S. S. McClure had started the 
syndication of 5,000 words a week, all fiction. A year later he en- 
larged this service to include general articles and the weekly output 
was 30,000 words. He landed the leading writers of the day, but he 
also remembered the housewife audience and launched the Patience 
Winthrop recipes, handled by himself. In 1892 he started a syndi- 
cated woman’s page. But in the meantime Edward W. Bok had made 



21 


Stepping Out 

a much more determined play for the woman reader through the 
syndicate service he organized with his brother, William J. Bok. 

In studying the reading habits of women he was struck by the 
fact that they cared little about the newspapers. He came to the con- 
clusion that this was because no positive attempt was made to in- 
terest them. He discussed the matter with several New York news- 
paper editors, all of whom agreed that they would like to get a 
feminine following for their papers. However, they told him frankly 
that they had no idea what women liked to read in a newspaper, or 
where suitable material was to be had. 

Mr. Bok recognized it as an open field with great possibilities. He 
spotted a letter of gossip appearing in the Star called “Bab’s Babble.” 
He thought this might be syndicated as a woman’s letter from New 
York. It was written by Mrs. Isabel A. Mallon. He made arrange- 
ments with her and the letter was sent to a group of papers. Jenny 
June had attempted the same thing on an amateur scale some time 
earlier. 

The response was immediate. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was engaged 
to write a weekly letter on women’s topics. This and “Bab’s Babble” 
suggested an entire page of syndicated matter, which Mr. Bok 
launched in 1886. One of the earliest features was “Side Talks with 
Girls” which he wrote himself for a time. It was signed Ruth Ash- 
mead and, later, Ruth Ashmore. 

A syndicate of ninety papers was soon in full operation and the 
idea spread. He employed the best women writers of the day and 
asked well-known men to write on subjects of interest to women. 
Editors who were unable to get the Bok page launched their own to 
compete with his in the same territory. This was one of the signifi- 
cant steps for women in journalism, since it gave definite form to the 
woman’s page and opened up great possibilities for women writers. 

From isolated columns and stray fashion notes a page for women 
now began to take positive shape. In its fundamentals it was not un- 
like the woman’s page of to-day, although any editor of that era 
would have shrunk in horror from the realism of some of the women 
commentators who now take sides boldly on anything from birth 
control to militarism. 

It suited the woman in the home but was scorned by the girls who 
vere beginning to stir about in the larger world. One writer pro- 
:ested bitterly in The Club Woman during 1900 that the woman’s 
jage in most newspapers was “principally mush and skimmed milk 
vith a little cream and powdered sugar added upon occasion.” 

Although Mr. Bok had relinquished his syndicate work eleven 
rears earlier to become editor of The Ladies Home Journal , he 

aintained his interest in the relationship of women to the news- 



22 


Ladies of the Press 

papers. At the beginning of the century he wrote to fifty of the 
leading newspaper women of the country, asking them if they 
would like their own daughters to work in newspaper offices. Forty- 
two answered. Only three said yes. Then he wrote to the managing 
editors of the fifty leading papers in the country, all of whom em- 
ployed women, asking them how they would feel about starting 
their own daughters in journalism. Horrors! The answer was over- 
whelmingly no. There wasn’t one dissenting voice. 

“I would rather see my daughter starve than that she should ever 
have heard or seen what the women on my staff have been com- 
pelled to hear and see,” said an outraged father. 

The editor of one of the largest dailies in the East wrote: “No, 
a million times no, and no words I can command can make my 
objections strong enough.” 

To-day the daughters and sisters of many newspaper men are 
working on papers throughout the country. In one case a father 
and daughter worked until recently in competition in the Hearst 
service. As a rule, newspaper fathers do not encourage their daugh- 
ters to take this step, but die daughters themselves insist. 

In 1901 Nixola Greeley-Smith joined the staff of the Evening 
World and a new page was turned in the history of women in 
journalism. She brought a rare and urbane touch to her work. Her 
interviews created a vogue. A group of women writers formed 
around her who cut the old-fashioned twaddle and wrote soundly 
about people and things. Nixola was their model. The fashion for 
interviews grew. Visiting celebrities were scarcely off the ship be- 
fore the women reporters pounced on them. At last editors had 
found something that women seemed to do with a superior touch. 
They showed their gratitude by keeping them busy. 

By 1903 more than three hundred women were regularly em- 
ployed as reporters throughout the country. In the same year a girl 
breaking into newspaper work was asked on her first day to inter- 
view a ward politician, on her second to interview a monkey, on 
her third to tell how to trim an Easter bonnet. It was a compara- 
tively short jump from this to Gertrude Stein, relativity and the 
New Deal. 

In 1907 the Thaw trial gave them their first real taste of court work 
in the East. They showed great aptitude for this particular type of 
reporting. It is still the field in which they excel. The emotional 
and dramatic elements were heavily played. Nell Brinkley sketched 
Evelyn Nesbit Thaw in a dozen different poses. Winifred Black, 
Ada Patterson, Dorothy Dix and Nixola Greeley-Smith wrote im- 
passioned paragraphs about her. This was the first of a long series 



Stepping Out 23 

of sensational murder trials at which women reporters had the op- 
portunity to do effective work. 

They now had a definite place in the city room. They took as- 
signments. The space system was already passing. A few of them 
were getting jobs. Then the suffragists carried them along, lifting 
them unconsciously on the wings of their own ardent efforts to get 
the vote. Women reporters invaded the front pages of the most con- 
servative papers with their stories on the feminists’ doings. The 
general tone, however, was jocular. The war gave them further op- 
portunities. Some went abroad and did foreign correspondence. 
Others took the places of men at home. They made the front page 
with increasing frequency. This give them experience, assurance, 
sound technique, and a number of good reporters were developed. 

By now the feature writers were established on all afternoon 
papers throughout the country. The more sensational morning 
papers played them up with by-lines. The woman’s page became a 
fixed feature in most papers. It leaned heavily on syndicate material. 
A lovelorn column was almost indispensable. At the same time, some 
attempt was made to catch the spirit of the contemporary woman 
and reflect her interests— whatever they happened to be at the mo- 
ment. 

By degrees the newspaper women stormed every department. 
They rose to executive office. They became specialists. They put 
themselves across by competence and push. Then in the summer of 
1919 the Daily News was launched in New York and the tabloid 
era began, with new opportunities for women. Stunts came back 
into vogue. Composite pictures of frightful conception galvanized 
the town. There were more jobs for girls. They were welcomed 
with warmth in the city rooms of the tabloids. The pendulum swung 
to dizzy lengths and then things settled again. There is little personal 
exploitation now. Few crocodile tears are shed in the news columns. 
The standard has been leveled. The woman reporter is compelled 
to write with a degree of good sense, however highly her story is 
dramatized. And in spite of the front-page prejudice, every publisher 
has accepted the fact that he needs a few women on his paper. 

“Who are these females? Fire them all,” said James Gordon 
Bennett impatiently, as he walked through the editorial room of the 
Herald on one of his infrequent trips to America and saw a few 
lapless women sitting about. He was notoriously averse to pompa- 
3 ours in the city room, and the wise girls made themselves scarce 
hen he came home. Both he and Frank A. Munsey were interested 
; social news and the club activities of smart women. They vaguely 
it the need of one woman on the paper to cope with these mat- 



24 Ladies of the Press 

ters, and Mr. Bennett liked precise descriptions of what women 
wore— particularly the President’s wife. 

There is no record that Mr. Munsey did much to help or hinder 
women in newspaper work, although occasionally he passed along 
a compliment to the city desk on a story by a woman that caught 
his eye. It was usually of the light and whimsical order. 

Joseph Pulitzer had no aversion to women working for his paper 
if they showed enterprise. It was he who gave Nellie Bly her first 
big chance after she had pushed her way into his office and laid 
some stunt suggestions before him. The World had a fine succession 
of women writers from the days of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Jordan 
down to the night the paper was sold, when Elenore Kellogg wrote 
a story for its last front page. The World women always had liberal 
opportunities to show what they could do. 

Mr. Hearst, more than any other publisher, has helped to put 
newspaper women on the map. Hundreds of them have passed 
through his doorways, some to lose their jobs with staggering swift- 
ness; others to build up big syndicate names and draw down the 
highest salaries in the profession. From the moment he entered news- 
paper work he dramatized them; got them to make news. They be- 
came the most spectacular, the most highly paid, the most dashing 
newspaper women in the country, if not necessarily the finest news 
writers. Wherever a woman has shown particular promise elsewhere 
an effort has been made to lure her into his service. 

Mr. Hearst does not voice his opinion of women in newspaper 
work. He shows what he thinks by employing them in large num- 
bers. Few of the women who work for him have ever seen him. 
Some of them have done sensational things for his papers without 
knowing in the least what he thought of their work. Yet he watches 
their progress closely and sometimes suggests the name of a news- 
paper woman to cover a story in which he happens to be interested. 

More outspoken on the subject is Arthur Brisbane, who has found 
and fostered most of the women stars in the Hearst service. He is 
their best advocate. He believes they are essential to every paper. 
He has frequently said that he would like to see a paper published 
and run by women only. He has given them real opportunities and 
they have gone far with his backing. 

Captain Joseph M. Patterson pursues a liberal policy with his 
women reporters. He believes that people like to read stories with a 
woman’s by-line. He has had a succession of admirable women re- 
porters on the staff of the Daily News , and has treated them hand- 
somely. Often they have been starred above the men. He lets them 
know about it when he particularly likes their work. 

The names of many clever women writers flash across the pages 



Stepping Out 25 

of the Scripps-Howard chain. Roy W. Howard has mental reserva- 
tions about the accuracy of women reporters on straight news, 
but he has no doubt of their value in the feature field. Some of the 
best feature writers in the country are now working in his service. 
They get excellent opportunities. He is open-minded and flexible in 
his judgment, where they are concerned. Like Mr. Hearst, he is 
opening up new fields for them. However, the United Press still 
holds out against them, the last of the news services to ignore their 
uses. Only a few women have done U.P. work, either in America 
or abroad, and then only on a temporary basis. But they are firmly 
entrenched with the Associated Press, International News Service 
and Universal Service. The press services and the New York Times 
were the most stubborn points of invasion. 

It was an understood, rather than an enunciated policy, that 
Adolph S. Ochs was opposed to having women on the general news 
staff of his paper. The Times , liberal in all other respects, stuck 
tenaciously to this policy for more than thirty years, although three 
women sat in the city room and took assignments of the depart- 
mental order from the city desk. The Sunday magazine and book 
review section meanwhile featured excellent work by women. In 
Anne O’Hare McCormick Mr. Ochs had as brilliant a woman corre- 
spondent as any publisher could hope to find. The feeling did 
not extend beyond the city staff. 

Carr V. Van Anda turned all suppliants aside in a gentle manner 
but with an amused glitter in the eye, saying he could not possibly 
send them out for the Times after dark. 

“If I had my way about it, all unmarried men would be taxed to 
support indigent women,” he said to one woman reporter who tried 
to land on the Times . “Go back South, if you must work. New 
York is no place for any girl who must earn her living.” 

However, she believed that it was the ideal place for a newspaper 
career, so she stayed and became one of the ablest tabloid reporters 
in New York. 

In 1934, before Mr. Ochs’ death, the bars were let down a trifle 
on the Times . A girl landed a straight news job on the city staff, 
did well, but soon decided to move on to other fields. She was essen- 
tially a fiction writer. A few months later another capable candidate 
arrived and stayed to prove that a woman reporter can go out after 
dark and bring in her story, too. 

Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Reid have shown confidence in newspaper 
women by giving them positions of the highest trust. The Sunday 
magazine and book review supplement of the New York Herald 
Tribune are managed solely by women. Throughout all departments 
of the paper the policy toward them is liberal. Mrs. Reid herself is 



2 6 Ladies of the Press 

one of the foremost newspaper women in the country. She is con- 
tinually urging the women of her profession to show more enter- 
prise and to seek opportunity in all departments of a paper, even 
the mechanical side. Few women have worked on the general staff 
of the Herald Tribune , but this has been left to the discretion of city 
editors and managing editors. It in no way reflects the policy of the 
owners of the paper. 

Fremont Older, who gave newspaper women extraordinary op- 
portunities on the San Francisco Call and Bulletin, and backed them 
in many original exploits, believed that editors did not employ 
enough women. He thought that in this they showed poor judg- 
ment, since he found that they worked harder than men, were 
enthusiastic and gave more faithful returns. He believed them to 
be natural writers, with greater facility of expression than men. 
However, although he cracked the whip over a brilliant group, in 
the long run his women reporters usually disappointed him. 

“The ablest woman will always attach her elbow to some worth- 
less man and let her work go,” he mourned, as one after another 
foreswore his spirited tutelage. 

As he grew older he came to the conclusion that few newspaper 
women were genuine careerists. They always wanted to mother 
someone— either a child or a man. This, he thought, was the one 
thing that kept them from being great reporters. 



Chapter III 

A SCOLD, A SIREN AND A STAR 


O NE OF THE MORE EMBARRASSING INTERVIEWS OF HISTORY WAS 

obtained from a President of the United States by a terma- 
gant newspaper woman who sat on his clothes as he bathed 
in the Potomac and refused to budge until he had answered her 
questions. 

The President was John Quincy Adams and his interviewer was 
Anne Royall, who used to rampage up and down the country under 
her own steam, a virago in a calico gown with mutton leg sleeves 
and a poke bonnet. Women covered themselves with veils as she 
hove in sight; men held their hats before their faces lest her demon 
blue eyes burn them up. Anne was a legend and a holy terror, con- 
victed ultimately as a common scold. 

Her immoderation made the nation laugh. There was something 
farcical about a cracked old woman belaboring the government of 
the country and pursuing a President to his morning plunge. Her 
Paul Pry was published from 1831 to 1836, one of the three personal 
journals launched by women during the nineteenth century. It was 
badly printed, fanatical and poorly edited, but while it lasted it had 
some interest as the mouthpiece of the fantastic Anne. 

More destructive in its effects was Woodhull and Claflin’s 
Weekly , issued from 1870-1876, a sensational publication backed by 
Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, the sirens of Wall Street. 
Kate Field’s Washington , the third of these ventures, caused scarcely 
a ripple by comparison. It blackguarded no one. It was written in a 
graceful and sprightly vein. Its pet causes, although odd, were ab- 
stract. 

The three papers were short-lived. None of them lasted much 
more than five years. They all expressed the strong personalities of 
their editors, and lacked the steadying touch of common sense. The 
two muckrakers ran up heavy circulation by spectacular measures; 
but the Woodhull publication was too violent to attract the public 
for long and Paul Pry was a fanatical nightmare. If the editors of 
these two papers had not been raging in the public prints, they 



jo Ladies of the Tress 

she interviewed President Adams as he bathed in the river. She 
backed liberal immigration and tariff laws, the abolition of flogging 
in the Navy, better conditions for the wage-earner, and free thought, 
free speech and a free press. 

She was liberal in her own interpretation of a free press, and 
sometimes confused candor with violent abuse. But in spite of its 
poor printing and proofreading, Paul Pry had a national circulation 
and was read with some degree of interest in Washington, the focal 
point of attack. Within a year she had agents all over the country 
handling her paper. She published the names of subscribers who 
failed to pay up. She stopped short at nothing. 

Her venture into publishing was hard work. Snow sometimes 
covered the floor where her paper was printed and the ink froze 
before it could record her blistering phrases. Her attacks on public 
evils were leavened occasionally by chatty reports on the doings of 
Sarah, Mehitabel’s earliest ancestor. Sarah was a column character 
based on Mrs. Sarah Stack, Anne Royall’s alter ego, her companion 
and secretary, and the only person who sincerely mourned her 
when she died. She appeared often in Anne’s writings as a rather 
likable figure, and gave occasional charm to the vindictive columns 
of the paper. In the middle of a spirited attack on Evangelicism, 
the reader might come on an odd little note telling what Sarah had 
done with the ink. 

Anne stopped publishing Paul Pry in November, 1836, as sud- 
denly as she had launched it, and at once got out a successor, The 
Huntress , which was less rancorous, better printed and more literate 
than its forerunner. This time she made some effort to keep up with 
the current style in journalism by printing stories, verse, anecdotes 
and some balanced editorial comment. She confined her own ram- 
blings to her column, which always retained the flavor of her strong 
and eccentric personality. 

She died on October 1, 1854, and was buried in the Congressional 
Cemetery. There was no money to mark her grave and to-day there 
is nothing to indicate the spot where she lies. Copies of her books 
and newspapers are rare. The other papers gave her little space 
when she died. She was a freak, who might have been bom in any 
age. The laughter she had caused died quickly; there was little else 
by which to remember the virago of early journalism, except John 
Quincy Adams’ epitaph and the interview on the banks of the Po- 
tomac. 

• • • • . . . 

More far-reaching was the commotion caused by Victoria Wood- 
hull, who brought all her native dash to bear on journalism. It was 
in no mean manner that she crammed the columns of her paper 



A Scold, a Siren and a Star 31 

with scandal. Her effects had some of the largeness of her own per- 
sonality. She brought the Henry Ward Beecher case into court and 
did it with a flourish. Undoubtedly she would have gone further, 
had not Anthony Comstock clipped her wings by court injunction. 

Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, were scarcely classifiable, 
either as journalists or human beings. They were magnetic, fas- 
cinating, eerie, raffish, triumphantly heralding the freedom of 
women, preaching free love, basking in the counsels of the great 
financiers, and using the honest craft of journalism for their own 
fell ends. 

Victoria could have led an army or swayed a mob— as she some- 
times did— but in actual fact she was an illiterate beauty, reacting 
to little beyond the emotional motives that drove her to dashing 
ventures. She never read a book, rarely looked at a paper, even her 
own. Neither she nor Tennessee did much for Woodhull and Claf - 
lirts Weekly except to inspire the wild plunges in policy which car- 
ried it along on its drunken course. 

They had two smart ghosts in the background— Stephen Pearl 
Andrews and Colonel James H. Blood— who knew what to do with 
pen and ink and how to sail close to the wind. Colonel Blood was a 
scholar. He gave Victoria her halo of learning. But she needed little 
aid to put herself across. She was bom for a headline role— one of 
the naturals of her generation. 

She reached it in quick strides that took her from Homer, Ohio, 
to the heart of Wall Street with few stops by the way. An inconse- 
quential marriage in her early teens to Dr. Canning Woodhull. Six 
weeks on the stage. Some lucky plunges in Western real estate and 
an intermission in Chicago, where she and Tennessee practiced 
clairvoyance. Tennessee communed happily with the spirits but 
Victoria could not bear such minor flights. 

So she brought her sister with her to New York. They stormed 
the town in 1868. They looked up Commodore Vanderbilt, Jim 
Fiske, Jay Gould. They founded their own bank. They launched 
their own paper. While most of their sisters were sitting among the 
antimacassars waiting for blessed events, Victoria and Tennessee were 
hobnobbing with the big shots downtown. Tennie was the beauty; 
Victoria was supposed to have brains. 

In the spring of 1870 the first issue of Woodhull and Oafliris 
Weekly was launched with the bold front-page announcement: 

“ Upward and Onward. Progress! Free Thought. Untrammeled 
Lives . Breaking the Way for Future Generations.” Striking a vir- 
tuous note, it deplored personalities in print, wilful misstatements 
or scurrility, and promised that all matters of vital interest to the 
people would be treated freely and without reservation in the new 



32 Ladies of the Press 

weekly. It would support Victoria C. Woodhull for President and 
would advocate suffrage without sex distinction. 

Cunning Tennessee had already filled up the gaping chinks with 
juicy advertisements from her Wall Street friends. It was a five-cent 
weekly, printed on the finest paper. The other newspapers found 
it a “handsome and readable paper.” But at first it was scarcely dash- 
ing enough to capture public attention. The editorials urged inde- 
pendence in woman. All manifestations of feminism were applauded. 

Victoria rode about town in a carriage, handsomely turned out, 
the woman journalist of the hour. She billowed out of her home on 
Gramercy Park while the neighbors gaped at the lovely apparition 
on her way to Wall Street. Even at this early stage they were a 
little suspicious of the high jinks going on downtown. 

However, the legend was growing that she was a clever writer. 
No one had a clue to the two verbose ghosts who pulled the strings 
in the background. She and Tennessee rode high as the Lady 
Brokers of Wall Street— a halo of gold around their handsome heads 
and money in their pockets. For the moment their newly founded 
bank was doing well. 

But by September they saw that a dash of pepper was needed to 
keep their weekly going. Feminism and the campaign to make Vic- 
toria President were not strong enough drawing cards to build up 
circulation. So they plunged boldly into the muckraking field. 
There was no limit to their daring. All the banned topics of the 
day were flaunted in print— prostitution, free love, social disease, 
abortion. The very words were shocking to the prim readers of the 
day. Their circulation soared to 20,000. 

The advanced women who had hailed the weekly as a fine ges- 
ture for freedom began to watch it with suspicion. Were Victoria 
and Tennessee working for the cause of women or for the glorifi- 
cation of their lambent selves? A woman compositor complained 
in another paper that she had found six male clerks at 44 Broad 
Street and no member of her own sex except Victoria, who had 
given her a bewitching welcome until she discovered that she 
wanted work and then had turned her away with the crushing ob- 
servation: “We won’t have our paper spoiled by women.” 

Harriet Beecher Stowe satirized her harshly in The Christian 
Union , little dreaming of the storm that was about to break for the 
Beecher family. Victoria had secret knowledge that Henry Ward 
Beecher was interested in Theodore Tilton’s wife. She had heard it 
from Tilton himself, in one of his enamored moments, for he be- 
longed to Victoria’s circle of favored friends. 

The evidence seemed convincing to Victoria, coming direct from 
the husband. She saw no moral obliquity in the fact itself, but de- 



A Scold , a Siren and a Star 33 

plored the pastor’s hypocrisy. She preferred people to follow their 
instincts grandly, gloriously, in the candid Woodhull manner. She 
gibed the preacher constantly through the columns of her paper. 
It became so pointed that he had several interviews with her. She 
claimed once to have had him at her knees, begging for mercy. He 
refused to appear with her on a public platform, which was a pity 
for him. But the bomb had not yet exploded. The sirens had more 
immediate troubles. The Equal Rights Party had nominated Victoria 
for the presidency of the United States and the campaign was on. 
Two years earlier she had presented her famous petition to Congress 
demanding equal rights. 

Her parents’ choice of a name for her gave Victoria much cause 
for optimism while she was running for the presidency. But it de- 
veloped that she had attached undue importance to its implications 
on this occasion. She and Horace Greeley took a bad beating from 
Ulysses S. Grant. The victor got 272 electoral votes, Mr. Greeley 
scraped up 66, but Victoria failed to draw one. She was less de- 
pressed than Mr. Greeley. 

“I was the worst beaten man who ever ran for high office,” he 
complained when the fight was over. “And I have been assailed so 
bitterly that I hardly knew whether I was running for President or 
for the Penitentiary. In fact, I am all used up.” 

But Victoria wasn’t, although her prestige was now on the wane 
and her bank was on the rocks. Public suspicion of the Woodhull- 
Claflin motives was becoming rather strong. The suggestion of 
blackmail was in the air. Their journal announced that if certain 
women did not stop blackguarding Victoria Woodhull she would 
print their private histories. Some of them claimed they were offered 
immunity for $500. 

Things went from bad to worse. The sisters were now notorious 
and unpopular. The ladies sitting behind the lace curtains who had 
watched them careering down to Wall Street went back to their 
knitting, sure that convention had won. The sirens could not rent 
a house. Soon they lost even their office and moved to a smaller 
one along the street. On June 22, 1872, they were forced to suspend 
publication. 

But they were not yet finished. Victoria was doing well as a 
public speaker. She had been a sensation at the New York Academy 
of Music, lecturing on free love and the impending revolution. On 
the platform she was irresistible— a glowing figure in flounces and 
pannier, her hair streaming down to her shoulders, her face blazing 
with zeal. She was more convincing in person than in print. 

In the autumn of that year she launched one of the major social 
scandals of New York history by spilling the entire Beecher-Tilton 



34 Ladies of the Press 

story in a long impassioned speech. She revived her journal for the 
express purpose of publishing eleven columns on this unusual tri- 
angle and getting every detail of it into the unbeatable clarity of 
print. The story had been dinner table conversation for months. But 
only Victoria Woodhull would have had the temerity to put it in 
black and white. 

Her early threats were more than fulfilled. The lackadaisical 
Theodore decided he must do something about it, and brought suit 
against Dr. Beecher for alienation of affection. He had not minded 
so much until Victoria sprang the story in public. It caused a ter- 
rific sensation. The issue containing the charges sold on the streets 
for as much as $40 a copy. All social classes sat back and enjoyed 
the collection of fortifying facts that Victoria had assembled. 

Anthony Comstock dashed to the rescue of Dr. Beecher. He 
found the sirens guilty of a “most abominable and unjust charge 
against one of the purest and best citizens of the United States.” 
He rounded up evidence the day after their paper carried the story, 
and sought action against them through the district attorney and 
the federal authorities. 

Victoria and Tennessee were discovered in a carriage on Broad 
Street, sitting haughtily on five hundred copies of their weekly. 
Not much surprised, Victoria shortly found herself in Ludlow 
Street Jail. She didn’t really mind. She soon got out. And her journal 
was fully revived on the high winds of publicity. It resumed regu- 
lar publication on December 28, 1872. 

But Comstock would not let the matter rest. He trapped the 
sirens cunningly by mailing a letter from Greenwich, Connecticut, 
signed John Beardsley, and enclosing money for the Beecher issue. 
TTiey were indicted and charged with sending obscene matter 
through the mails. This was a more serious affair. Colonel Blood 
was arrested first. He sent a warning to the sisters. Tennessee hid 
under a wash tub and Victoria dashed over to Jersey City with 
her bondsman. It was not that she objected to going to jail. She had 
been there before. But she was scheduled to make a speech at 
Cooper Institute and she wanted to keep her engagement. 

It was January 9, 1873. The hall was packed with people who 
wanted to hear Victoria tell the Beecher story again. Marshals and 
policemen surrounded the building, determined to keep her from 
getting in. No one knew where she was. 

An old woman hobbled down the aisle in a dress of Quaker gray 
and a coal-scuttle bonnet, and took her place in the front row. The 
chairman began to speak. She apologized for the absence of Mrs. 
Woodhull. “She can’t appear to-night lest she be again thrown into 
an American Bastille,” she said. “Though they may shut her out, 



A Scold , a Siren and a Star 35 

they shall not prevent the delivery of the lecture, for she has depu- 
tized me to read to you ‘The Naked Truth, or the Situation Re- 
viewed.’ ” 

Like a flash of lightning the old Quaker Lady bounded up on the 
platform in a whirl of petticoats, pulled off her bonnet with a tri- 
umphant gesture, dropped her outer robe at her feet and stood re- 
vealed as Victoria Woodhull. Peals of applause greeted her. She 
made a fiery speech. For an hour and a half a tempest of revelation 
swept the audience and kept them breathless. 

The marshal with his writ for arrest was transfixed. The police- 
men listened with open mouths. At last one of them remembered 
his duty and moved toward the platform. Victoria was peremp- 
torily escorted to Ludlow Street Jail. Her hour was ended. But she 
was found not guilty of sending obscene matter through the mails. 
The facts she had blithely published became a matter of court 
record. The Beecher case was now the talk of the town. Victoria 
aired it again in her journal in May. 

But she was bored with journalism and its alarms. Her credit was 
no longer good. The suffragists cold-shouldered her and did not 
invite her to their convention. For the time being she conceded de- 
feat. Her weekly ceased publication altogether, little regretted, even 
by its founders. The New York Times commented severely that 
“license never had been carried to such an extent as in the free love 
journal of Woodhull and Claflin, and the female name never had been 
more disgraced and degraded than by these women.” 

Eventually Victoria apologized to Dr. Beecher for having inter- 
fered in his private affairs. She made it quite clear that the only 
thing she objected to about his behavior was his hypocrisy. But 
New York was a little tired of her. So she traveled and lectured. 
When she felt she had exhausted America she went to England, 
taking Tennie with her. Again they moved like conquerors, their 
beauty and dash giving them a great advantage in this untilled field. 
They were the suffrage queens from across the sea. 

Lecturing one night in St. James’s Hall, Victoria made such an 
impression on John Biddulph Martin, banker and philanthropist, 
that he contrived to meet her afterwards and make her his wife. 
They lived happily together until his death in 1897. 

So Victoria permanently joined her regal namesake in England 
and lived in great state. At last her name implied victory. With her 
sister’s substantial backing Tennie became Lady Cook. Once or 
twice Tennie returned to New York and appeared at correct recep- 
tions, still beautiful, still full of spirit, harboring malice toward no 
one. When she died in 1923, her tenants mourned her and Victoria 
wept at her bier. She left more than $500,000 to her sister, whom she 



36 Ladies of the Press 

had always adored. Victoria scattered largesse, her generous spirit 
soaring with her fortune. She continued her work for the suffrage 
cause, helped to promote friendly relations between Great Britain 
and the United States, and was the moving spirit in the purchase of 
Sulgrave Manor. She died at her home in Tewksbury in 1927, at 
the age of eighty-nine. 

Kate Field also believed in the rights of women, but she brought 
a lighter touch to bear on journalism than her predecessors. Like 
Victoria, she created a dramatic effect, was handsome in appear- 
ance, dashing in style. She came of an accomplished English family 
whose roots were in Warwickshire. She was born in St. Louis in 
1840, the daughter of Joseph M. Field, a man of varied interests. 
He studied law, abandoned it, was one of the founders of the New 
Orleans Picayune and contributed to the paper under the pseudo- 
nym “Straws.” Kate’s first story was signed “Straws Jr.” and ap- 
peared when she was eight years old. Her mother, Eliza Riddle, was 
an actress. 

At sixteen Kate was sent to a New England seminary, and three 
years later she took the first of many trips abroad. She traveled 
with an aunt and uncle from Boston and lived in Paris, Rome and 
Florence, meeting the celebrities of the time. Walter Savage Landor 
taught her Latin. Anthony Trollope referred to her in his auto- 
biography as his “most chosen friend.” She knew the Brownings 
and George Eliot. 

Kate studied for opera but a fall from a horse in Italy impaired 
her health and her voice, so she turned to writing instead. She did a 
series of letters for the New York Tribune , the Chicago Tribune 
and other papers throughout the country during each of her trips 
abroad. Travel correspondence was in much demand at this time, 
and every paper ran flowery letters from traveling scribes. 

After her return to America in 1874 she haunted the smart 
circles of Boston, Newport and New York, studied art, music and 
the drama, and knew everyone worth knowing. She was one of the 
quoted sophisticates of the day, much ahead of her time in many 
respects. Such was her versatility that she tackled the stage too, but 
with less success. She played Peg Woffington at Booth's Theatre 
in 1874. Her stage fright was so extreme that she could scarcely 
find her voice until the last act. She was rated a flop, but she toured 
later with John T. Raymond in The Gilded Age , and, as Mary 
Keemle, appeared on the British stage in a comedy written by her- 
self. 

The first time Queen Victoria picked up a telephone receiver, 
Kate Field sang to her over the wire. She was an astonishing per- 



A Scold y a Siren and a Star 37 

son, with dozens of interests. She turned out books and comedies 
with great facility and it never ceased to surprise her that she could 
write better than she could act. In 1890 she moved to Washington 
and founded her weekly review, a novel experiment in journalism. 

Most of Kate Field’s Washington was written by Kate herself, 
with vigor, fearlessness and a vivid style. Her aim was to mirror 
the men and events of the time but she rode her own hobbies hard. 
She campaigned on Hawaiian annexation, international copyright, 
temperance, the prohibition of Mormon polygamy, and dress re- 
form. On her return from one of her trips to Europe she decided 
that the dress of the American woman was ugly and overburdened. 
She established her own Cooperative Dress Association, but it made 
no dent in fashion and died a natural death within a year. 

Although Kate Field sometimes mystified her friends by the 
causes she espoused, she never failed to charm them. Her journal was 
interesting and gracefully written but was not a great success. Her 
enthusiasms usually burst into vivid flame, then died quickly. In 
1896 she suspended publication and went off to Hawaii. On a tour 
of the islands she rode through a hurricane and was blown off her 
horse’s back. She died of an illness brought on by her exposure and 
the hardships of this ride. Kate had made a singular place for her- 
self with her wit and ubiquity, and she was undoubtedly one of the 
more brilliant exponents of personal journalism. 

But even before the nineteenth century women here and there 
in America were getting out their own papers. They were not spec- 
tacular personal journals like Paul Pry , Woodhull and Claflin’s 
Weekly or Kate Field’s Washington. The names of their owners 
suggest nothing today. But Rhode Island’s first newspaper, pub- 
lished in 1732, was owned and edited by Anna Franklin. She and 
her two daughters did the printing and their servants worked the 
press. They were so adept that Mrs. Franklin was appointed printer 
for the colony and turned out all the official papers. They printed 
an edition of the Colonial laws filling 340 pages. 

In 1772 Clementine Reid published a paper in Virginia, backing 
the Colonial cause. Two years later a rival paper was started by 
Mrs. H. Boyle in the interests of the Crown. Both papers were pub- 
lished in Williamsburg and were short-lived. In 1773 Elizabeth Tim- 
othy brought out a paper in Charleston, South Carolina. She was 
owner and editor and held the position of state printer for seventeen 
years. Another woman, Mary Crouch, published a paper in the same 
city contemporaneously. The chief motive for its existence was its 
opposition to the Stamp Act. She moved eventually to Salem, Massa- 
chusetts, but continued to publish her paper there. At about the 
same time Sarah Goddard was publishing a paper in Newport, Rhode 



38 Ladies of the Press 

Island. But Sarah found she could not do it single-handed and was 
forced to bring in a man. Dozens of papers were launched by women 
during this period. They were all propagandist in tone and were 
correspondingly poor in the journalistic sense. 

In different parts of the country to-day women may be found 
running their own papers, usually by inheritance from a husband or 
father. But none has essayed the intensely personal journalism of 
Anne Royall, Victoria Woodhull or Kate Field. These three were 
newspaper women only by chance. Essentially they were egotists 
grasping for the nearest medium of self-expression. 



{ 39 1 


Chapter IV 

HEARTS AND ROSES 


F anny Fern and Jenny June both helped to open up the way 
for the newspaper women who came after them. They wrote 
so copiously that it was practically impossible for a confirmed 
newspaper reader to ignore the harmony of their alliterative names. 

Fanny was the first to wail and sob and drag her widow’s weeds 
through the public prints. She has often been called the grand- 
mother of all the sob sisters. But Jenny was a sound pioneer, the 
first to make a business of going down to the office every day and 
writing at a newspaper desk. 

The current fashion was leisurely correspondence paid for on 
space rates, written in the boudoir, on Timothy’s mahogany desk 
or in a European pension. Jenny was a positive sensation when she 
ran around town, collected news and wrote it within sound of the 
presses. “Why, you go on so naturally and make so little fuss about 
your work that I sometimes forget you are a woman,” said her 
grateful editor. 

But Fanny Fern wanted all the world to know that she was a 
woman— and an oppressed one, too. Her paragraphs gushed forth 
with the freedom of an undisciplined mind. She exploited her own 
personality. She took up moral issues with a great hoopla and fas- 
tened on such piquant questions as drinking and smoking, the illicit 
practice of men walking through the ladies’ cabin on the Brooklyn 
ferry, and the merits of gutta percha paddings for lantern jaws. 
Fanny was always on the side of law, order and the black wool 
stocking. Her style seems slightly anachronistic to-day. It had none 
of the dateless literary quality that makes Margaret Fuller, Grace 
Greenwood, Gail Hamilton and Kate Field as readable now as 
when they wrote for their papers more than half a century ago. 

But none of her contemporaries could touch Fanny in popu- 
larity. The more thoroughly she was ignored by the literati, the 
better the public liked her. She was an early best seller. Her Fern 
Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio was a sensation and her sales ran up 



40 Ladies of the Press 

to 180,000. She was the talk of the town. Even her more genuinely 
talented sisters did not ignore her. 

Fanny was blatant, sharp, and given to jocular buffoonery that 
passed for wit. Her style was cumulative. She rushed along with 
terrific outcroppings of dots, dashes and exclamation marks. She was 
breathless and breezy; loud but vapid. She belabored clergymen, 
lawyers and editors with strength and volubility. Her scorn for a 
man who could say “I can’t” was appalling. 

“I can’t.” O, pshaw! I throw my glove in your face, if I am 
a woman! You are a disgrace to corduroys. What! A man lack 
courage? A man afraid to face anything on earth, save his 
Maker? Why! I have the most unmitigated contempt for you, 
you pusillanimous pussy cat! There is nothing manly about you 
except your whiskers! 

This was more or less typical of Fanny on the rampage. She was 
at her best in a sea of pathos. Harps and muted violins were the 
obbligato of her staccato utterances. 

She was forty before she turned to journalism. One life had al- 
ready been lived. Two husbands had been lost along the way. Her 
own name was Sara Payson Willis. She was born in 1 8 1 1 at Port- 
land, Maine, and at six was taken by her parents to Boston, where 
her father edited the Puritan Recorder and Youth's Companion . 
Her upbringing was devout. She attended public schools in Boston 
and then did her finishing at Catherine Beecher’s Seminary in Hart- 
ford, Connecticut. 

At twenty-six she married Charles H. Eldridge, a Boston cashier. 
They had nine unremarkable years together, then he died, leaving her 
penniless and in debt. Her second venture was with a Boston mer- 
chant named Farrington. This was an unhappy marriage that ended 
in divorce. All that remains of Mr. Farrington in the records is the 
fact that he bolted to Chicago, leaving Fanny stranded. He did not 
even leave his first name behind. 

The seven years that followed were lean ones. Fanny’s father was 
unsympathetic. Her brother, Nathaniel P. Willis, editor and poet, 
was frigid. She lived in a furnished room. She sewed. She taught. 
She was wretched at both. At last her indignation with fate drove 
her to the point of action. She put the children to bed one night and 
then sat down to write a piece for the paper. Everyone in the family 
seemed to know what to do with a pen. Fanny thought she would 
try her luck. She marched in personally to the Mother's Assistant 
with the first of the fern leaves. It was accepted and her reward was 
fifty cents, but she had to dun the editor for her money. Her subject 



Hems and Roses 41 

was a “model minister” and it was done in Fanny’s best philosophical 
vein. 

The members of her highbrow family were skeptical and paid no 
attention to her early gibberings. They could scarcely foresee that 
she was to become one of America’s favorite authors. They thereby 
missed a chance to make a fortune but did not seem to care, for 
much later, when Fanny was highly successful and going along on 
her own momentum, her brother still scornfully refused to print 
any of her work. 

But she caught on from the start. She had a natural instinct for 
the popular thing. She contributed regularly to the Boston Olive 
Branch , using the pen name Olivia Branch, and she did some spark- 
lers at $2 a column for the Boston True Flag . The country was 
overrun at the time with jolly little publications that mopped up all 
the stray bits by the lady journalists. The religious papers were a 
lush field in themselves. 

The editor of the True Flag was afraid the public might have a 
little too much of Fanny Fern, so he proposed the second pen name 
to spread the butter further. It worked very well. Fanny’s stuff 
was liked under either name. She had the knack. The editor’s com- 
ment on her style is illuminating: 

The manuscript was characteristic— decidedly Ferny— dashed 
all over with astonishing capitals and crazy italics— and stuck as 
full with staggering exclamation points, as a pin cushion with 
pins. In print, the italics were intended to resemble jolly words, 
leaning over and tumbling down with laughter, and the inter- 
jections were supposed to be tottering under the weight of 
double-entendre and puns. At first sight, the writing looked as 
if it might have been paced off by trained canary birds— driven 
first through puddles of ink, then marched into hieroglyphic 
drill on the sheet like a militia company on parade. All Fanny’s 
manuscripts demanded a good deal of editorial care to prepare 
them for the press; her first productions, particularly, requiring 
as thorough weeding as so many beds of juvenile beets and 
carrots. 

But Robert Bonner, who was her editor later on the Ledger , 
thought differently. Fanny’s copy was sacred. She was treated with 
greater deference than Henry Ward Beecher, Alice Cary, or any of 
his other contributors. “We never think of cutting down, or even 
altering a word in Fanny Fern’s articles,” he wrote. For Fanny was 
a bom circulation getter. 

Soon the question was being asked on all sides: “Who is Fanny 
Fern?” The public wanted to know. A perspicacious publishing 



42 Ladies of the Press 

house heard the murmur, collected all the odds and ends she had 
written and published them in book form. When the scattered 
leaves were all assembled, the effect was overpowering. They 
launched the author as a public character in the year 1853. She now 
decided that the time had come to try New York. 

Fanny was an elegant figure when she swept into the metropolis. 
She stepped high, had a florid complexion, an aquiline nose, an arro- 
gant mouth and bold blue eyes. She moved in full sail. Her flounces 
took up the space of five uninflated human beings. She walked with 
a rustle and a swish. She ducked her head like a swan. She was 
lively, bad-tempered, gushing in her manners, trite in her style. 

Fanny did not arrive empty-handed. She came with a novel in 
tow and offered it first to her brother for his Home Journal The 
fastidious Nathaniel turned it down. He detested her “noisy rattling 
style.” Fanny was furious. She stamped into his office and said he 
was jealous of her success. His publication was none too flourishing 
at the time. Nathaniel didn’t care, even though it might mean more 
money in the till. He thought Fanny a humbug and preferred to 
stick to his literary standards. 

But James Parton, his assistant editor, not only admired Fanny’s 
work but loved her. He was an Englishman, a conscientious biog- 
rapher who took her as seriously as he did his work. He had al- 
ready written to her ecstatically without knowing that she was 
Nathaniel’s sister. His defense of Fanny was so insistent that it cost 
him his job. Nathaniel was vindictive. But Parton married Fanny and 
continued to work on his biographies. She joined the staff of the 
Ledger. Within a year of her arrival in New York, Mr. Bonner was 
paying her $100 for a single weekly column of her exclamatory 
prose. 

Fanny tempered some of her early extravagances, but her style 
did not change materially. However, she became so much of a 
household figure that the most dignified publications took note of 
her performances. Harpers Magazine saw her as the leader of a 
literary movement and published the following estimate of the 
passion flower of the press: 

She has won her way unmistakably to the hearts of the peo- 
ple; this we interpret as a triumph of natural feeling. It shows 
that the day for stilted rhetoric, scholastic refinements, and big 
dictionary words, the parade, pomp and pageantry of literature 
is declining. 

This, probably, was the explanation of Fanny’s phenomenal suc- 
cess. She was usually on the warpath. Mr. Bonner put it neatly when 
he said: “She is an embodiment of American womanhood, giving 



Hearts and Roses 43 

the world a piece of her mind, and the world is glad to get it.” He 
exploited her handsomely, giving her full-page display advertise- 
ments in the other papers. Her work appeared exclusively in his 
paper, which had a large circulation at the time and was admittedly 
dedicated to “choice literature, romance, the news and commerce.” 

Fanny was eccentric, flippant, and masculine in her manners, but 
she had plenty of zip. She had her revenge on Nathaniel by cari- 
caturing him in a novel she wrote called Ruth Hall. It was a poor 
book, scathingly reviewed, but there was so much talk about it that 
50,000 copies were sold. She pictured the rather well-known Na- 
thaniel as Hyacinth, a “mincing, conceited, tiptoeing, be-curled, 
be-perfumed popinjay” who paid $100 for a fine vase while his 
sister, the worthy Ruth, begged bread for her children in the streets. 
It was all most diverting for Nathaniel’s sophisticated friends. 

By this time Fanny was living a lavish life. Her marriage to the 
adoring Mr. Parton was a success. The family spent their summers 
in Newport. Each year her articles were collected and published in 
book form under such provocative titles as Ginger Snaps and Caper 
Sauce. 

Her column ran in the Ledger until a week before her death in 
1872. The World gave her a front-page obituary notice when she 
died, for she had become a really well-known figure. There was a 
big turn-out of literary celebrities at her funeral. 

Of much more moment to the newspaper women who followed 
her was Jenny June, really the forerunner of the trained reporter 
of to-day. In the middle fifties there was no such thing as a woman’s 
department in any of the papers. Why should there be? Women 
didn’t read the papers. Jenny studied the field. She saw that there 
was nothing particularly stirring to record. Women were not yet 
interested in clubs; in fact she herself was to help found the first. 
They didn’t go to business. They had no cravings for careers. They 
had not yet become eager for the vote. The only excitement they 
could supply was an occasional scandal or a gorgeous wedding, and 
a man was always on hand to act as official historian on these occa- 
sions. But parties, clothes and beauty were the topics that inevitably 
lit sparks at any feminine gathering, and Jenny wisely decided to 
concentrate on the vanities of woman. 

As time went on she did editorials, book reviews and dramatic 
criticism, but her main preoccupation was with fashions. She also 
tackled the problems of the kitchen and the home. She had a fresh 
and breezy style; she went about the town; she knew people. She 
was amazed to find that her stuff was a success. So were her editors. 
They gave her more work to do. They liked having her around the 
office. She was bottled in a quiet comer, but there she was— “the 



44 Ladies of the Press 

female reporter, complete with quill and notebook.” She had charm- 
ing manners but was not openly aggressive. Jenny was small, viva- 
cious, brown-haired, blue-eyed. “There is no sex in labor,” she used 
to say, “and I want my work taken as the achievement of an indi- 
vidual, with no qualifications, no indulgence, no extenuations simply 
because I happen to be a woman, working along the same line with 
men.” Her everyday conversation was on the oracular side but she 
was not a sentimentalist, like Fanny Fern. 

She was the wife of David G. Croly, whom she married when he 
was making $14 a week as a reporter on the Herald . She was soon 
writing for the World , the Tribune , the Times and Noah’s Sunday 
Times . When her husband was appointed managing editor of the 
World in 1862, Jenny took over the woman’s department entirely, 
making a great success of it. She was known as one of the town’s 
best reporters. In 1872 she went over to the Daily Graphic with her 
husband, syndicating her articles to papers in Boston, Chicago, New 
Orleans, Baltimore and other cities. 

Jenny June’s stories became a history of American fashion and the 
gradual changes in merchandising. In an article called “Returning 
to Town,” which was published in September, 1873, she pictured 
the actual transition of trade from the small shop to the department 
store. She ran the first version of the now popular shopping column, 
for she named shops freely in her stories, pointing out that an 
excellent glove, fine, soft, well-fitting and extremely durable, had 
been introduced at Lord and Taylor’s, or that Macy’s was carrying 
“full samples of dolls, dolls’ trousseaux and dolls’ houses of every 
kind and degree, all the purchases being made in Europe under Mr. 
Macy’s own supervision, so that ladies may rely on getting the best 
and the prettiest, as well as the cheapest, at this establishment.” 

Jenny campaigned vigorously against the slavery of custom in 
women’s dress. She opposed foreign fashions, which were then be- 
ginning to flood the market, and maintained that women should 
wear only the becoming and the appropriate. She was withering 
about the pannier in 1865 and deplored the Grecian bend, saying 
sharply that she would like to give a good spanking to the “exhibitor 
of these doubtful airs and graces.” She favored uniformity in dress 
and in 1873 campaigned for standard evening dress, but was no more 
successful than Kate Field a decade later. Women continued to dress 
as they pleased. 

Jenny took stock of every fad in food and home decoration. 
She was always a little ahead of her time. In the rococo age 
she saw the virtue of simplicity. After the panic of the early seven- 
ties she advised her feminine readers to simplify their housekeeping. 

In the autumn of 1873 J enn y> like the enterprising girl she was, 



Hearts and Roses 45 

went exploring the East Side for the Graphic , to study the condition 
of “female workers among the lowly and unfortunate.” Her piece 
was entitled “What A Lady Saw.” The hazards of the narrow over- 
crowded streets with their gesticulating peddlers were quite con- 
siderable for a lady like Jenny. She was shocked to discover the fe- 
male workers living in unheated rooms without blankets or carpets. 
She found the lower East Side as “remote and strange to the eyes of 
New Yorkers as if it lay east of the Ganges or west of the Rocky 
Mountains.” 

To the newspaper girl of to-day, who dashes to the East Side at a 
moment’s notice when a baby is kidnapped or an indignant wife 
polishes off her husband, Jenny June’s reactions may seem slightly 
academic. But her copy was always sound and readable. She had a 
broad outlook on life. She knew most of the important figures of 
the day in journalism, art and politics. She conducted a salon, first on 
Grove Street, then uptown on Seventy-first Street. She found time 
to bring up five children and to run her home commendably. She 
was much ahead of her generation. 

In 1868 Jenny helped to found the Sorosis Club, an idea that 
mushroomed amazingly throughout the United States. It was the 
result of feminine indignation because women were barred from the 
reception and banquet tendered to Charles Dickens by the Press 
Club. Jenny had applied for tickets, feeling that her position in 
journalism entitled her to an invitation. The men thought other- 
wise. 

So she and a few other hardy souls founded the Sorosis Club. 
Alice Cary was appointed president. Kate Field and Fanny Fern 
were on the band wagon. They were heaped with ridicule. But 
Jenny brought the boys around in the end. The Press Club invited 
the Sorosis members to a breakfast, feeding them but not allowing 
them to talk or participate in the program. This was a great hard- 
ship for such eloquent women. They sat in frozen silence, being 
sung to and lectured, but they did not enjoy the occasion. 

The Sorosis then gave a tea for the Press Club. The order was 
reversed. The men had to sit in silence while the women made 
speeches. They were not even allowed to respond to their own 
toast. The third exchange between the two groups was a Dutch 
Treat party, men and women paying their own way and sharing 
equally in the honors and responsibilities. This was one of the 
earliest occasions on which the two sexes sat down at a public din- 
ner on approximately equal terms. 

The Sorosis seemed to be the thing for which the women of 
America had been waiting. Clubs began to form everywhere. Noth- 



4 6 Ladies of the Press 

ing could stop them. Jenny June envisioned them all coming to- 
gether, which they did in 1889, in the General Federation of 
Women’s Clubs. She was the moving spirit in this consolidation. In 
the same year she organized the Woman’s Press Club. 

Indignant that her own craft did not give full recognition to 
newspaper women, Jenny invited forty women working for the 
New York papers to form their own organization. Eleven years 
later they had a permanent home and two hundred members. This 
was the reigning women’s press club for many years, until it was 
superseded by the New York Newspaper Women’s Club. 

From newspaper work Jenny June branched out with Madame 
Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions , a quarterly, writing it all herself 
for nearly four years. In 1887 she bought a half-interest in Godey’s 
Lady’s Book and soon afterwards launched The Woman’s Cycle. 
This was consolidated with the Home Magazine, which she edited. 

She began to write when she was seventeen years old. She took 
her pseudonym from a book of verse by Benjamin F. Taylor, given 
her when she was twelve years old by a clergyman who used to 
visit her family in Wappingers Falls. She was a social worker at 
heart as well as a newspaper woman, and before her death in 1901 
she wrote her own epitaph: “I have never done anything that was 
not helpful to women, so far as it lay in my power.” Jenny June 
often said that a “well-rounded club was an epitome of the world.” 

Of the same genre was Nancy Johnson, more widely known to 
the reading public as Minnie Myrtle. Nancy was a heroic and 
scholarly figure, crippled early in life, but pursuing her career with 
enterprise and talent. She was born in 1818 in Newbury, Vermont, 
and her first literary work was Letters from a Sick Room , done 
while she was convalescing from the amputation of one of her legs. 
She spent several years traveling with Catherine Beecher, acting as 
her secretary, and then settled in Saratoga Springs where she cor- 
responded for the New York papers. 

She was a friend of Henry J. Raymond, editor of the Times. He 
was interested in her work and in 1857 he sent her to Europe as a 
traveling correspondent. She moved from one country to another, 
described the vineyards and valleys of Germany, the weavers’ cot- 
tages of Normandy, the castles of the Pyrenees, the Swiss moun- 
tains, the salons of Paris during the Napoleonic era, the plague of 
cholera that swept Europe, the oratory of Disraeli and John Bright 
in the House of Commons. She watched Queen Victoria pass in her 
gilded coach and the Empress Eugenie whispering and laughing 
with her husband while prayers were being chanted. 

Nancy became a cosmopolitan. She was received all over Europe. 



Hearts and Roses 47 

She went to receptions in broad-brimmed hats with streamers, and 
to balls in rose-colored silk. She had a perceptive eye for what went 
on around her, and readers of the Times got fresh and piquant im- 
pressions of the social life of Europe from her writings. She dedi- 
cated her book, The Myrtle Wreath , to Mr. Raymond. 

It was not until Nancy was old that her wanderings ceased and 
she returned to the quiet New England village where she was bom. 
There she spun marvelous tales of her adventures abroad for nieces, 
nephews and cousins. Many of them were handed down in the 
family and are best remembered to-day by Mrs. Frances Parkinson 
Keyes, her great-niece, herself a familiar figure in the Press Gallery 
and a well-known magazine editor and author. 

Nancy was the author of several books, all of which sold well, 
and she kept on writing almost to the day of her death, which oc- 
curred at Haverhill in 1892. 



[ 48 ] 


Chapter V 

NELLIE BLY 


I t was Nellie Bly who first made America conscious of the 
woman reporter. She burst like a comet on New York, a dy- 
namic figure, five feet three, with mournful gray eyes and per- 
sistent manners. She dramatized herself in a new form of journalism, 
going down in a diving bell and up in a balloon, posing as a luna- 
tic, a beggar, a factory hand, a shop girl and a Salvation Army lass. 

But Nellie’s great coup, which neither she nor any other news- 
paper woman equaled again, was her trip around the world in 
72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, outdoing the dream of Jules Verne’s 
Phileas Fogg and creating no end of an international stir. 

She sailed from New York on November 14, 1889, and came 
home in triumph on January 25, 1890, the World bringing her 
across the country from San Francisco by special train and greet- 
ing her with the smash headline leading the paper, “Father Time 
Outdone!” 

With two small satchels, two frocks, a toothbrush, some flannel 
underwear, a bank book, a ghillie cap and a sturdy plaid ulster, 
Nellie galloped and ran, roasted and froze, sped from ship to train, 
to burro, to jinrickshaw, to sampan, to barouche, until she reached 
the terrific climax of outdoing Father Time for Joseph Pulitzer. It 
was exhilarating journalism, good for the World, superb for Nellie, 
entertaining for the public, and it did no one any harm. 

One had only to follow her career from its beginnings in Cochrane 
Mills, Pennsylvania, to know that Nellie was destined for front- 
page notice. She was bom on May 5, 1867, in the small town founded 
by her father, who was a judge. Her name was Elizabeth Cochrane. 
She had enterprising blood in her veins. Her grand-uncle, Thomas 
Kennedy, went around the world before she was born but it took 
him three years and he came back with wrecked health. He intended 
to write the history of his trip but never did. However, Nellie 
carried on. 

Her father, a scholarly man, took charge of her early education. 
She was an imaginative child, fond of books and given to scrawling 



Nellie Bly 49 

fantastic fables on their fly-leaves. She went to a boarding school 
in Indiana at thirteen but was brought home within a year because 
of her delicate health. When her father died and his estate was set- 
tled there was no money, although he had been regarded as a man 
of wealth. 

With the enterprise that was to mark her entire career, Nellie 
left home and sought her fortune in Pittsburgh. Almost at once 
she got in touch with the newspaper world by answering an article 
in the Pittsburgh Dispatch entitled “What Girls Are Good For.” 
Her letter was not published but she was asked to write a piece for 
the Sunday paper on girls and their sphere in life. Without any 
hesitancy she put her views on paper, received a check for her 
efforts and was asked to write more. 

Nellie’s newspaper sense was alert from the start. Having landed 
on the springboard, she plunged boldly into the sea with a piece 
entitled “Divorce.” She signed it Nellie Bly, a pseudonym suggested 
to her by George A. Madden, managing editor of the Dispatch. 
He had taken it from Stephen C. Foster’s song, popular at the 
moment. 

Nellie started her newspaper career with an original idea. She 
went through factories and workshops in Pittsburgh, her crusading 
spirit already in full flower. Her articles were emotional and spat 
their indignation. They all had the personal quality which gave 
her a steady and constant following in later years. At first she made 
$5 a week. Eventually she was to make $25,000 from her writings 
in a single year. 

She covered society, the theater and art for her paper. She was 
young and looked it. She had only just put up her hair, and she 
seemed shy and sensitive. Her large gray eyes were honest and 
questing. Her manners were meek. This quality stayed with Nellie 
to the time of her death. It concealed some of the terrific driving 
force that made her dauntless in the pursuit of her object. It fooled 
many of her unwitting victims. 

She set out on her travels early. She had not been in Pittsburgh 
long before she decided to see the world. She took her mother and 
they went to Mexico and journeyed everywhere that the train 
would take them. Nellie sent back rather trite letters to her paper. 
The smart newspaper girls who had preceded her had all done 
travel correspondence. Why not Nellie? 

When she returned to Pittsburgh her salary was raised to $15 a 
week, but she had seen a larger world and she was no longer satis- 
fied, so she decided to try New York. The walls of Jericho didn’t 
crumble at the first blast of the trumpet. She tramped the hot streets 
in the summer of 1887 and wondered what she could do to make 



50 Ladies of the Press 

the metropolitan publishers know that she had arrived. Then, as 
now, they were singularly incredulous of the merits of a woman 
reporter. 

Nellie reached her lowest ebb when she lost her purse with nearly 
Jioo, practically all the money she had in the world. Feeling des- 
perate, she made another assault on the gold-domed World building. 
She had been beseeching Mr. Pulitzer by letter to allow her to go 
up in the balloon which he was sponsoring at St. Louis, but her 
pleas had been ignored. 

She had no introductions but she was determined to crash the 
inner sanctum. She badgered the custodian of the gate for three 
hours until she got to John A. Cockerill and finally to Mr. Pulitzer 
himself. She was not particularly good-looking, nor was she smart. 
But she was a human dynamo and almost at once she enlisted the 
interest of her shrewd and experienced audience. She laid before the 
two editors a list of suggestions for stories— all of the stunt order. 
They looked them over and were favorably impressed. 

Nellie then told them the tale of the lost purse. They felt sorry 
for the poor little creature in New York without a bean. In her 
soft, persistent way she could always wheedle people into doing 
what she wished. Mr. Pulitzer gave her $25 to keep her going until 
he and Mr. Cockerill had had time to come to some decision on her 
suggestions. 

Nellie went back to her furnished room, sure that the battle 
was won. And indeed, from that moment on, all gates opened auto- 
matically for the small tornado, and nothing stayed her course. 
The World decided to let her work up one of her own ideas— that 
she should feign insanity and investigate the treatment of the insane 
on Blackwell’s Island. There had been complaints about the way 
in which patients were treated there. 

This was not the easiest assignment for a reporter on trial, but 
Nellie was a gifted actress. She practised her part before a mirror. 
She tore down her heavy brown hair and made faces at herself. 
She read ghost stories so as to create a morbid state of mind. She 
laughed wildly at her own reflection. Then, when she felt in the 
proper mood, she dressed in old clothes and went to a temporary 
home for women, where she feigned madness so successfully that 
she was committed to Blackwell’s Island without any difficulty. Four 
physicians pronounced her insane. And to her horror she found that 
the more sanely she behaved, the crazier they believed her to be, 
with the exception of one doctor who apparently was not taken in 
by her histrionics. 

As soon as she was out she wrote two sensational stories in which 
she described her experiences. This was her formal introduction 
to the New York Dublic. The World was in its crusading hevdav 



Nellie Bly 51 

and was widely read, so that many thousands were aware that Nellie 
Bly had come to town. She told of the cold, the poor food and 
the cruelty to which the patients were exposed. She found the asy- 
lum a “human rat trap, easy to get into, impossible to get out of.” 
She charged the nurses with goading their patients. She saw de- 
mented and gray-haired women dragged shrieking to hidden closets, 
their cries being stifled by force as they were hustled out of sight. 

The headlines on Nellie’s first-person stories announced that she 
had deceived judges, reporters and medical experts. The revelations 
created considerable stir in official circles. She was summoned to 
appear before the Grand Jury. She accompanied the jurors on a 
visit to Blackwell’s Island. But, somehow, many of the abuses of 
which she had written so graphically seemed to have been toned 
down by the time they got there. Nellie ascribed this anticlimax 
to the fact that the official visit was expected. There had been time 
to clean up the halls, improve the look of the beds and move some 
of the patients to remote spots where their constant complaints 
could not be heard. Practically none of the patients she had de- 
scribed by name were to be found for questioning and the nurses 
contradicted Nellie on every point. 

However, the Grand Jury sustained her findings, $3,000,000 was 
voted for improvements and changes were made in the manage- 
ment of the asylum. The World was pleased with Nellie and Nellie 
was pleased with herself. She was taken on the regular staff and 
was told to go to work on her ideas. 

She went in for reform and one of her first attacks was leveled 
with deadly effect against Edward R. Phelps, whom she exposed as 
the lobby king of Albany. Her glee is apparent in her story which 
appeared on April 1, 1 888: 

For Vm a Pirate King! 

Vm in the Lobby Ring! 

Oh! what an uproarious y 
Jolly and glorious 
Biz for a Pirate King! 

I was a lobbyist last week. I went up to Albany to catch a 
professional briber in the act. I did so. The briber, lobbyist 
and boodler whom I caught was Mr. Ed. Phelps. I pretended 
I wanted to have him help me kill a certain bill. Mr. Phelps 
was cautious at first and looked carefully into my record. He 
satisfied himself that I was honest and talked very freely for a 
king. . . . 

From this point on, Nellie practically became the town reformer. 
Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst gave her credit for being of great aid 
to him. She visited the city prisons and turned out stories which 
resulted in the appointment of matrons to handle women prisoners. 



52 Ladies of the Press 

In order to write authoritatively she had herself arrested and went 
through the regular procedure. She visited the free dispensaries as 
an invalid to see what sort of medical care the poor were getting 
from the city. She spent a day in a diet kitchen and visited old 
women’s homes. She sought employment as a servant through a 
number of agencies. She worked behind the glove counter of a 
large shop. She made paper boxes in a factory and found that more 
men wanted to flirt with her at this job than at anything else she 
tried. She put on a campaign against the handsome bucks who saun- 
tered through the park when the grass was verdant and the dogwood 
bloomed. She rounded up the scoundrels one by one but the mas- 
ter technician eluded her. He appeared only on Wednesdays, drove 
a dashing pair of bays at a smart clip through the park, ogled the 
girls and usually made off with a brace of beauties to an unknown 
destination. 

It took Nellie half a dozen Wednesdays to snare him. She spotted 
him at last by his whiskers. They were a rippling bronze and swept 
his four-in-hand. At the first glitter of his percipient eye she stepped 
into his carriage, arranged a rendezvous, lured him on to his un- 
doing, and then unmasked the villain, sparing him nothing. He was a 
bartender from downtown who attended to his business six days a 
week and on the seventh put on his cutaway, pomaded a curl over 
his forehead, waxed his whiskers, plunged a sparkling horseshoe deep 
into his tie and drove his equipage through the park, casting the glad 
eye on the bell-sleeved beauties. 

Nellie went back to her desk under the gold dome of the World 
building and wrote her expos6 in finicky longhand. She ran the 
masher off his beat. His magnificent whiskers were seen no more 
in Central Park. Meanwhile, she went complacently on her way, the 
darling of the reading public. 

So pervasive was she that the officials of public institutions began 
to look at every beggar woman’s face with the suspicion that the 
deadly Bly girl might be lurking behind some disguise. Readers 
of the World watched eagerly to see what Nellie would be up to 
next. Mr. Pulitzer was not blind to the value of her services. In the 
winter of 1889 he decided to sponsor her trip around the world. 
He had rejected the same idea a year before. She received four days’ 
notice to start and all her transportation was bought for her in New 
York. 

It was still a ladylike age. There was little talk of the vote. The 
woman’s page in the World was headed “Fair Woman’s World.” It 
had flower garnitures, music notes, a lady with a fan and a bustle. 
The Master of Ballantrae' was running serially when Nellie got her 
orders to run a race with Father Time. 

Thousands had been entranced by the dream of Phileas Fogg, 



Nellie Bly 53 

who went around the world in eighty days. If the mythical Phileas 
could do it in a dream in eighty days, why not the enterprising 
Nellie in less? 

She decided that luggage would hamper her movements, because 
of customs and porters, so she chose her wardrobe with care. She 
had a “blue plaid in ladies’ cloth” made up in twelve hours at 
Ghormleys’. By noon the tailor had it boned and fitted, and at five 
o’clock on the same day it was ready for the final try-on. Miss 
Wheelwright, her own dressmaker, made her a tropical costume of 
camel’s hair cloth. She selected a heavy Scotch plaid ulster and a 
gossamer waterproof for downpours. So enterprising was Nellie that 
she set off without an umbrella, a dashing piece of business for 1889. 
She had two satchels— one a substantial gripsack, sixteen by seven 
inches, the other a light contraption which she slung over her 
shoulder. She had a toothbrush, a bank book, a pair of “easy-fitting 
shoes” and some changes of flannel underwear. She wore a thumb 
ring on the left hand as a talisman. She had worn it the day she 
sought work on the World and so considered it lucky. 

One of her masculine colleagues on the paper interviewed Nellie 
the day she sailed. “And what will you do for a medicine chest. 
Miss Bly?” he asked solicitously. Miss Bly laughed heartily. There 
would be chemists everywhere along the line in such a modem and 
well-ordered world, she pointed out. 

Her send-off was quieter than her return. Her paper announced: 

On four days’ notice Miss Bly starts out with a gripsack for 
the longest journey known to mankind— she knows no such 
word as fail, and will add another to her list of triumphs— cir- 
cumnavigation of the globe. The World today undertakes the 
task of turning a dream into a reality. 

With all the millions now invested in methods and modes of 
communication, interstate and international, the story of Miss 
Bly will give a valuable pointer in enabling the reader to appre- 
ciate these avenues of intercourse at their full value, to see their 
merits and their defects and note the present advanced state of 
invention in these lines of human effort. 

Nellie sailed on the Augusta Victoria and pushed on according 
to the itinerary which had been carefully prepared for her. She 
carried a twenty-four hour watch with her, so that she could keep 
track of the time in New York. She was to take her chance along 
the line. No chartered trains or extra fast ships were to speed her 
on her way. 

Viewed at this distance, her feat scarcely seems as breathtaking 
as it did at the time, since all she had to do was to stick to her 
schedule and make her well-ordered connections. It was a bit diffi- 
cult to keep the excitement going at first. Cable communication was 



54 Ladies of the Press 

not what it is today. However, the World staff worked hard. At- 
tention was drawn to the hazards of fog, the monsoon and vagrant 
storms. A circular chart was published every day, showing Nellie’s 
stops. The public followed the game with checkers or pennies or 
dice, betting when she would reach each point. 

Her stories came through as often as possible. They bubbled over 
with gay comment on the odd ways of foreigners, the food she had 
to eat, the cold she suffered on sea and land. Nellie had her own 
particular way of making it seem cataclysmic if her coffee was cold. 
She managed to make even the carriage of an English train somewhat 
enthralling. 

Her rapid survey of London forced her to the conclusion that 
it was a foggy city. She crossed to Boulogne and went to Amiens 
to visit Jules Verne. This was a romantic gesture she had thought 
of herself. She found him living a leisurely life in an old stone house 
where she made a breathless call. Jules looked with Gallic amaze- 
ment at this enterprising girl who had grown so serious over a 
dream. 

He wished her luck but told her frankly that he did not think 
she could do better than Phileas. She rejoined her ship and went 
on to Brindisi, sending her messages by special code. By November 
27th she had reached Port Said. From there she proceeded to Aden 
and then to Colombo, where she had to wait five days for a ship. 
This gave her time to write about the elephants, the Cinnamon 
Gardens and the beauties of Kandy. Her travelogue was warming 
up. The stay-at-homes were beginning to feel that perhaps Nellie 
Bly had a good idea. 

The ballyhoo was built up with cunning that would have done 
Bamum credit. When the cablegrams were sparse, columns were 
written by scornful whiskered scribes in the World office on “Some 
of the Queer Things Nellie Bly Will See During Her Stay in Japan.” 
But never had the Japs seen anything more extraordinary than Nellie 
with her ghillie cap, her plaid ulster, her two knapsacks and her 
stop watch. 

By this time the whole English-speaking world was more or less 
rading with Nellie, and reporters met her at every stop. She basked 
in this attention and wrote home graphically about it. A free trip to 
Europe was offered by the World for the person who most closely 
estimated the time she would take to complete her tour, down to 
seconds. It took considerable ingenuity on the part of the copy 
readers to think up new heads for the stories. “Nellie Bly’s Rush” 
and “Nelly Bly on the Fly” were more or less typical. The excite- 
ment was intense. 

Nellie sailed from Colombo on the Oriental and by December 
1 8th was at Singapore. From there she went on to Hongkong, en- 



Nellie Bly 55 

countering a monsoon, the first genuine excitement of the trip. This 
gave her imagination full play. Nevertheless, she reached port two 
days ahead of her itinerary and had to wait five days before she 
could push on to Yokohama. These stops were trying to Nellie’s 
ardent spirit. She preferred to be on the run. 

She spent Christmas Day in Canton, eating her lunch in the 
Temple of the Dead. On December 28th she started for Yokohama 
on the Oceanic and spent New Year’s Eve on shipboard. She had a 
stormy trip through the Yellow Sea and reached Yokohama on 
January 3rd. She went to Tokyo and saw the sights. 

Four days later she set off again and had a rough trip across the 
Pacific. The World had a special train waiting to rush her across the 
country. Nellie traveled in state, flags flying dong the route, crowds 
greeting her at every stop. It was a triumphal trip, although she 
didn’t linger for welcoming speeches. Not until she reached New 
York did she learn that the train had nearly been derailed at one 
point along the route. Thus she was cheated of all the extravagant 
emotions that undoubtedly would have found their way into print 
had she known that danger lurked anywhere in her vicinity. 

Ten guns boomed from the Battery and Brooklyn to welcome 
her home on January 25th. She had covered 24,899 miles. The 
World gave her its entire front page and most of the paper besides, 
the maximum publicity that any newspaper woman has ever re- 
ceived. An exclamatory two-column head led the paper. 

FATHER TIME OUTDONE! 


Even Imagination’s Record Pales Before 
the Performance of “The World’s” 
Globe-Circler 


Her time: 72 days, 6 hrs. n mins., -sec. 


Thousands Cheer Themselves Hoarse 
at Nellie Bly’s Arrival 


Welcome Salutes in New York and Brooklyn 


The Whole Country Aglow with Intense En- 
thusiasm 


Nellie Bly Tells Her Story 



5 6 Ladies of the Press 

Nellie got off the train in Jersey City, bands playing, crowds 
cheering her. Again the unfortunate young man on the World , who 
had to see that Nellie’s race was properly chronicled in her own 
paper, wrote— no doubt with the consciousness of Mr. Pulitzer’s eye 
upon him: 

It is finished. 

Sullen echoes of cannon across the gray waters of the bay 
and over the roofs and spires of three cities. 

People look at their watches. It is only 4 o’clock. Those 
cannot be the sunset guns. 

Is some one dead? 

Only an old era. And the booming yonder at the Battery and 
Fort Greene tolls its passing away. The stage-coach days are 
ended, and the new age of lightning travel begun. 

And amid all the tumult walks the little lady, with just a foot 
of space between her and that madly joyous mob. She is carry- 
ing a little walking-stick in one hand and with the other waves 
her checkered little fore-and-aft travelling cap, and laughs 
merrily as her name is hoarsely shouted from innumerable 
throats. Tense faces stare from the long galleries that bend omi- 
nously beneath their awful load of humanity. The tops of pas- 
senger coaches lying upon the side tracks are black with men 
and boys. . . . 

But the little girl trips gaily along. The circuit of the globe is 
behind her. Time is put to blush. She has brushed away distance 
as if it were down. Oceans and continents she has traversed. 

Cablegrams and telegrams poured in to the World . One of the 
first came from Jules Verne, who cabled handsomely: “I never 
doubted the success of Nellie Bly. She has proved her intrepidity 
and courage. Hurrah for her and for the director of the World. 
Hurrah! Hurrah!” The welcoming committee threw the final bou- 
quet at her head: “Miss Bly has done for American journalism what 
Stanley did for it in 1873.” 

No wonder the little girl was set apart for the rest of her life and 
heard strange echoes of this welcome even to her dying day. After 
the tumult had died down she told her story in four detailed chap- 
ters, which were read by thousands of admirers. A race-horse was 
named after her. Her picture was distributed with the Sunday 
World. Games bore her name. Songs were sung about her. 

Almost anything that happened to her after this was bound to be 
anticlimax. She lay low so as not to mitigate her triumph, and also 
because she needed a rest. After a breathing spell she returned to her 
desk and her racy stories again enlivened the newsstands. 



IS! elite Bly 57 

Everything by Nellie was written in the first person. Her style 
had many airs and graces, comments and interpolations. Yet it was 
clear, readable and somewhat cunningly devised, although the senti- 
ment often seemed forced and her desire to right the wrongs of 
the world was overpowering. She made an emotional play in a pe- 
culiar style that has not been duplicated by any woman in journalism. 
Much of it might seem like drivel in to-day’s paper, yet it fitted the 
contemporary frame and no one could question her right to front- 
page attention. She thought up nearly all of her own stories, al- 
though her paper backed the crusades. 

What Nellie’s own opinions were no one ever knew, for she had 
stock sentiments which she trotted out to suit any occasion that 
might arise. She was strongly moralistic. Her stories evoked much 
money for charity, particularly her ten-column account in 1893 of 
the work of the Salvation Army after she had dressed as a Salvation 
Army lass and worked at the Front Street headquarters. 

She interviewed murderers, passed a night in a haunted house 
hoping to meet a ghost, and described her own sensations in great 
detail. She wrote a biting piece about society women whom she 
discovered in pool rooms betting on the races. She exposed a famous 
woman mind-reader and described the misery of starving tenement 
dwellers. Little went on in the social order, in fact, that did not 
call for one of Nellie’s smug sermons. The evil-doer had reason to 
draw the blinds when she was about. This was all good for the 
World , which was then riding high as an instrument of reform. 

In 1 895 she married Robert L. Seaman, a wealthy Brooklyn manu- 
facturer whom she met at a banquet in Chicago. He was seventy- 
two. She was not quite thirty. Her more envious colleagues called 
her a gold digger. She lived in state at 15 West Thirty-seventh 
Street until her husband’s death in 1910. She became slightly social 
for a time, having Sunday evening gatherings, but this was not the 
sort of thing for which she cared. She was one of Hetty Green’s 
few intimates and used to go and visit her when the old lady of 
Wall Street felt she could tolerate company. 

After her husband’s death things went to pieces in remarkably 
short order. She was not so keen at business as at journalism, al- 
though her lawyers never were able to persuade her of this fact. 
She became involved in endless litigation. Her factory made steel 
barrels, tanks, cans and tubs. A series of forgeries by employees, 
disputes of various sorts, and a mass of vexatious squabbles swal- 
lowed up the millions that Nellie’s husband had left her. She was 
reduced to a penniless state. When her company went bankrupt 
she formed another; when it, too, went bankrupt she formed a 
third. Meanwhile her creditors charged her with fraud. 



58 Ladies of the Press 

Nellie packed up and went to Austria, but her troubles followed 
her. She transferred her property to an Austrian friend, which 
brought further complications during wartime under the Alien Cus- 
todians’ Act. She came back bitter against her brother, charging 
him with having mishandled her affairs during her absence. In place 
of front-page stories signed by Nellie, obscure paragraphs now ap- 
peared in the papers dealing with Mrs. Seaman’s battles in court. 

She developed into a professional litigant. Her disposition had 
suffered and she had become shrewish, another Becky Sharp. It had 
always been Nellie’s habit to win. She was stunned to find the world 
against her. She thought she was in the right. She was a bundle of 
contradictions. One moment she was tight-fisted; the next, generous 
to an excessive degree. She rarely referred to her brilliant past, so 
obsessed was she by her business troubles. She could not quite believe 
that her fortune had melted away so unreasonably. 

Shortly after her return from Austria, Arthur Brisbane took her 
on the Journal and again Nellie Bly’s name appeared above news 
stories. But in the meantime journalism had changed. It was no 
longer startling or even novel to do stunts. New Yorkers did not 
get excited when she started picking up stray children and finding 
homes for them— even taking them under her own wing in the two- 
roomed suite she shared with a woman friend at the Hotel McAlpin. 

Nellie’s last splash was a sensational one, yet it passed almost un- 
noticed. On January 30, 1920, she witnessed the execution of Gor- 
don Hamby at Sing Sing, the first woman in twenty-nine years to 
see an execution in New York State. 

Hamby was a spectacular young murderer, of the Gerald Chap- 
man order. Just before he died he sent Nellie his ouija board with 
the note: “A slight remembrance (all I have at this time) for your 
infinite kindness and friendship.” 

Nellie saw the execution under the pretext of campaigning against 
capital punishment. She sat in the seat farthest away at her own re- 
quest. Hamby smoked a cigarette she had given him as he walked 
jauntily to the chair. Nellie shut her eyes when the current was 
turned on. Her story in the Journal next day began: 

Horrible! Horrible! Horrible! 

Hamby is dead. The law has been carried out— presumably 
the law is satisfied. 

Thou Shalt Not Kill. 

Was that Commandment meant alone for Hamby? Or did it 
mean all of us? 

I only know that I kept repeating “Thou Shalt not Kill! 
Thou Shalt not Kill” •. . . 

The horribleness of life and death. Through my mind flitted 



Nellie Bly 59 

the thought that one time this young boy going to the death 
chair had been welcomed by some fond mother. He had been a 
babe, lo, loved and cherished. And this is the end. . . . 

But journalism had changed to such a degree that the new crop 
of women reporters scarcely noticed that Nellie had put over an- 
other tremendous scoop, and if they did, it no longer seemed to 
matter, for the day for such antics was over and newspaper work 
was on a different basis. 

Nellie Bly was now little more than a legend. If this was bitter 
to her, no one knew it. She had never cared for the opinion of 
her colleagues. Her eyes had always been fastened on the larger 
audience. In any event, she was tired and ill, and her main preoccu- 
pation was with her abandoned children. 

She had a private office at the Journal . Few of her fellow workers 
ever saw her. She had never lounged about the city room, or been 
one of them, for she was usually acting a part or was bent on secret 
missions. When she did appear, she wore a large hat and a veil with 
chenille dots. True to form, she carried herself with an air of 
mystery. 

On January 28, 1922, the World ran a half column on an inside 
page announcing the death of Nellie Bly, the most spectacular star 
the paper had ever had. She had died of pneumonia on the previous 
day in St. Mark’s Hospital at the age of fifty-six, lonely, friendless 
and worn out. Funeral services were held for her at The Little 
Church Around the Comer. 

Those who knew Nellie Bly in her youth mistakenly recall her 
as a tall and rather stunning figure— one of the newspaper beauties, 
like Winifred Black, Polly Pry and “Pinky” Wayne. But this was 
an impression created largely by Nellie’s own manner. Actually she 
was small and demure, with rather large ears, a courageous mouth 
and calculating eyes. As time went on she grew more massive and 
carried herself with dignity. She had occasional outbursts of temper 
but was never really aggressive. She was simply a woman of in- 
domitable will. 



Chapter VI 

THE FIRST SOB SISTERS 


H igh up on Russian Hill in San Francisco, in a Spanish 
house that faces the Palace of Fine Arts which she saved 
from demolition, Winifred Black spent her last days, her sight 
fading, her memory choked with such events as come only singly to 
most human beings. She died in May, 1936, at the age of seventy- 
three. 

The realistic women reporters of to-day were apt to think of her 
vaguely as Annie Laurie, a great syndicate name, having little rela- 
tion to the active world they inhabit. Yet in actual fact she had 
one of the most breath-taking careers in newspaper history. She 
made news as well as wrote it. 

For there is nothing they do to-day— politics, crime, catastrophes, 
uplift or interviews— that she did not do in a more spectacular way 
thirty years ago. She could have given them aces and spades on 
technique, as well as sound advice, and even in the last year of her 
life she was ready to rush out for the first good story that came 
along. One of her great disappointments was her daughter’s failure 
to follow the career which for her meant everything in the way of 
human excitement. 

Mrs. Black’s life was packed with drama and adventure. She ex- 
perienced all the gaudy moments of the yellow journalist— banner 
lines, personal exploitation, the crack assignments of the day, no 
matter where they took her. She never had the trivial things to do; 
only the cataclysmic. She covered the Galveston flood, the St. Louis 
cyclone, the San Francisco disaster. She crusaded, campaigned and 
made news. She belonged essentially to an era when the newspaper 
woman was exploited and dramatized. She set the pace, just as Nellie 
Bly had done a few years earlier. She became a personality as well as 
a reporter. 

Such figures are rare to-day. They are scarcely possible in the 
highly-geared newspaper office where the paper counts and the 
individual doesn’t. But Mrs. Black’s sensational feats are only part 
of the picture. She was’ society editor, dramatic critic, city editor 



The First Sob Sisters 61 

and managing editor. She worked for the Hearst bureau in London 
and went abroad many times as a syndicate writer. 

She was known as Annie Laurie in the West, Winifred Black in 
the East. Actually she was Mrs. Charles A. Bonfils, although no one 
in San Francisco ever thought of her by her married name. She 
was one of the first of the Hearst stars and, in fact, was on the 
Examiner before Mr. Hearst left college. So she was identified with 
his beginnings in newspaper work. She was the one woman writer 
on his staff who was in his inner councils over the years and from 
time to time she brought talent to his attention. Their first encounter 
was not in the city room, but at a children’s playground party, when 
he helped to quiet a yelping dog for her. 

Mrs. Black strolled into the office of the Examiner straight from 
the chorus— a handsome girl with reddish hair and finely modeled 
features. She had been brought up by her sister, Ada C. Sweet, who 
was United States Pension Agent in Chicago. They were born in 
the deep woods of Wisconsin, the daughters of Colonel B. J. Sweet. 

S. S. Chamberlain was managing editor of the Examiner at the 
time. Mrs. Black had never done any writing except for a letter pub- 
lished in the Chicago Tribune while she was touring with a the- 
atrical company, but with some of the invincibility that followed her 
through life she managed to get on the staff. The first time she at- 
tracted official notice was when Elizabeth Bisland was starting off 
on her race around the world against Nellie Bly. This was in 1889. 
Mrs. Black was sent down to her ship to write the send-off story. 
It was her first big chance and she knew it. 

She labored painfully over her piece. It was stilted and elaborate, 
and the adjectives were strewn like currants through a suet pudding. 
This was what she believed to be style. Mr. Chamberlain, one of the 
chief executives of the Hearst service for many years, called her 
into the inner room of the old newspaper office on Montgomery 
Street. The surroundings were dusty but he was a Beau Brummel 
of the nineties, with striped trousers and a gardenia in his coat. 

There were no typewriters about, nor any ticker machines bring- 
ing in the small marvelous threads of news from all comers of the 
earth. It was slumbrous compared with the modern newspaper 
plant. All the energy was supplied by the human dynamos who 
dashed about, stirring things up. The mechanical note was absent. 

Mr. Chamberlain looked at the new reporter and did not hesitate 
to tell her the truth. 

“This is a bad story,” he pointed out. “Very bad, indeed. We 
don’t want fine writing in a newspaper. Remember that. There’s a 
gripman on the Powell Street line— he takes his car out at three 
o’clock in the morning, and while he’s waiting for the signals he 



62 Ladies of the Press 

opens the morning paper. It’s still wet from the press and by the 
light of his grip he reads it. Think of him when you’re writing a 
story. Don’t write a single word he can’t understand and wouldn’t 
read.” 

As he spoke he was tearing her story into shreds. He made her 
do it over. And this was the last time she tried for an elaborate effect. 
She learned then that dramatic results were best achieved by sim- 
plicity; that short words in lucid sequence were the most potent 
form of expression. 

Her next assignment of any consequence was a stunt. She was 
ordered to do an expose of the receiving hospital in San Francisco. 
There were rumors that women were not being well treated there. 
She dressed in old clothes and worn shoes, cut a “Plain Sewing 
Wanted” ad from a paper and tucked it into her shabby purse, then 
went out in the street and practically threw herself under a truck, 
fainting as realistically as possible. She was carried into the receiving 
hospital, where she stayed for some time, taking mental note of what 
went on. The story she wrote resulted in the entire personnel being 
routed out. The method of handling women patients was improved. 

This was the first of a long series of crusading stories. Soon after- 
wards she went to the Leper Settlement at Molokai with Sister Rose 
Gertrude, who was sent there after the death of Father Damien. 
The trip was more or less of a stunt. It did not involve any great 
personal hazard. But it was spectacular and created the desired effect 
at the moment. 

By this time Mrs. Black had acquired the technique of vivid, per- 
sonal writing. She knew how far to go with the emotional strain, 
how indignant to become and still stay within the bounds of news 
writing and common sense. Having abandoned the elaborate, she 
went in for startling effects— hard jolts in short paragraphs. She used 
adjectives, but not in such dizzy numbers. Her stories were highly 
charged with emotion. 

This type of newspaper writing was in the ascendancy. The 
prosiness of the mid-Victorian era was passing, although the effects 
were still on the fanciful side. It was more usual to say “a conflagra- 
tion has stricken our fair city, evidently the work of a fire fiend” 
than to go in for the sharp newspaper ellipsis of to-day and call it 
simply an incendiary fire. Mr. Hearst was against the roundabout 
and windy style. He ordered short sentences, short paragraphs and 
direct quotes whenever possible. 

The staff of the Examiner thought nothing of putting in a sixteen- 
hour working day in the pursuit of news. There was no five-day 
week, and little leisure to .pursue one’s private interests. This was the 
period when the exclusive story was the keystone of journalism and 



The First Sob Sisters 63 

the indispensable attribute of the reporter. It no longer is, unless 
other vital qualities accompany it. The ability to assemble news 
intelligently and to write it in effective and pointed prose is now 
rated more highly than the deft art of reaching the prisoner in his 
cell, finding the hidden diary or making the murderer confess. How- 
ever, there is no editor alive who does not warm to the bearer of an 
exclusive story. The reporter who can write, and beat his rivals too, 
will always be the prize jewel in any newspaper office. 

Mrs. Black functioned most effectively when the ability to be the 
only reporter on the spot was the thing that brought approbation. 
Whether by luck, strategy or some instinctive reportorial sense, she 
had singularly few failures. No other woman had a chance to work 
on the tidal wave disaster at Galveston in 1900. She was the first 
reporter from the outside world to get into the stricken city, al- 
though Richard J. Spillane, who was on the Galveston News at the 
time and was local correspondent for the New York Herald , was on 
the spot when it happened. He almost lost his life, and did valiant 
work while the storm was still raging. 

A large part of the city was washed away. The death toll was 
7,000. It was one of the major disasters of American history. Mrs. 
Black was rushed to the scene as soon as the first messages came 
through. She knew that no woman reporter would be allowed 
through the emergency lines by the heavy guard that surrounded 
the ruined city. She disguised herself as a boy, wearing a linen duster 
and carrying a package. She had to step over dead bodies piled high 
in the streets. Debris was scattered everywhere. Grief-stricken sur- 
vivors ran helplessly in circles, looking for children, mothers, sweet- 
hearts. She walked the streets that were not inundated, and saw crazy 
and unforgettable sights. She talked to men and women too hysteri- 
cal to recall even what had happened to them. She got her story and 
with much difficulty managed to get through the lines again to file it. 

When she tried to get a little sleep, telegrams reached her an- 
nouncing that four of the Hearst papers had relief trains on their 
way. She was asked to have a hospital ready when they arrived. 
She commandeered a building and eighty mattresses. Everything 
was organized by the time the trains got in. She directed the relief 
workers and distributed the $60,000 in cash that Mr. Hearst had sent 
to her personal account to be spent on relief. Altogether she helped 
to raise $350,000 for the survivors. 

She was riding in a street car in Denver when she saw the head 
lines that announced the San Francisco disaster. In tears, she hurried 
to the office of the Denver Post. There a telegram from Mr. Hearst 
awaited her. It was one word long. It said “Go.” 

Mrs. Black always had a genius for organization. She could cam- 



64 Ladies of the Press 

paign, stunt or turn out a column with equal facility. This gave 
her work a strongly personal flavor and tinged her writings with 
the editorial note. It was not the news that mattered so much as 
what Winifred Black had to say about the news. Her own personal- 
ity was largely responsible for this. She could cajole, be convincing, 
or turn autocratic. If feminine wiles didn’t work, she simply 
smashed the door. When President Benjamin Harrison visited Cali- 
fornia, only one press representative was permitted to board his 
train. It wasn’t Mrs. Black, but she managed to get on, nevertheless. 
The Governor of California, whom she knew, helped to secrete 
her on the train after the attendants had tried to keep her off. When 
they were under way, she was discovered hiding under a table and 
the President gave her an interview. 

Once the stage hands were conquered, Mrs. Black never had any 
difficulty with the stars of the cast. She might arrive by way of the 
cellar, but she always left by the front door. She was openly ag- 
gressive. On one occasion she marched down a church aisle and 
beckoned to a minister as he was about to begin a prayer. His wife 
was expecting a baby, so he felt sure that the summons had come. 
When he found that it was the girl reporter, Winifred Black, dead 
set on questioning him about some unimportant matter that could 
have waited until the end of the service, he was angry; then she dis- 
armed him and he thought it funny. But this was the direct method. 
Irreverent, perhaps, but effective. Mrs. Black found that she could 
get away with it. 

She interviewed Henry Stanley, Henry Irving, Sarah Bernhardt 
and all the visiting celebrities of the era. She was swift and pic- 
turesque. There were no taxis to whir the reporter to his destina- 
tion; no telephones for quick transmission. One had to be resource- 
ful and meet competition halfway. It was not merely a question of 
being a good reporter, but also an effective person, able to bend 
others to one’s will and make things happen. And at this Mrs. Black 
excelled. She could steam-roller opposition with amazing thorough- 
ness. Her paper backed her up in everything she did. In the year of 
the Galveston disaster she found Governor William S. Taylor, who 
was in hiding after the assassination of Senator William Goebel, of 
Kentucky. While most of the papers were pronouncing him a suicide 
she turned him up in his hiding place. 

She missed few important murder trials in forty years. One of her 
earliest court-room experiences was the trial of William Henry 
Theodore Durrant, the superintendent of a Baptist church, who was 
hanged at San Quentin in 1898. 

One Easter morning some members of the congregation, deco- 
rating the church with lilies, opened a small closet off the li- 



The First Sob Sisters 6$ 

brary and discovered the body of a young girl named Minnie Wil- 
liams. She had been violated and hacked with a knife from die 
kitchen of the church. They searched further. They broke down a 
door leading up to the steeple and there in the belfry they found 
another young girl, Blanche Lamont, strangled. She had been 
missing from her home for a week. 

Durrant, brother of Maud Allen, the dancer, was arrested. He 
protested his innocence to the last. It was California’s most notable 
murder trial, for it had all the surrounding elements of a startling 
crime among people of some social standing. It was the age when 
girls went whizzing along the highways on their bicycles and every- 
one sang “Dolly Grey.” The spectacle of young women writing in- 
dustriously at a press table about the odd vices of man was an 
astonishing sight. But Annie Laurie was calm under the shelter of 
her cartwheel hat. Beside her was Mabel Craft of the Chronicle, a 
handsome blonde girl and one of the reigning newspaper stars of the 
day. Somewhere else in the court room was the “sweet pea girl” 
whose quaint custom it was to come into court every day wearing 
a corsage of sweet peas, and to send a bouquet of the same flowers 
to the prisoner. 

Durrant stole a page from the criminal history of the future. He 
acted like a tabloid hero. He insisted on having his father watch 
him hang. Just before he died he made a dramatic speech. He asked 
that the rope that hanged him should be burned after his death. 

Nine years later the Thaw trial covered the front pages of the 
country’s newspapers. Again Mrs. Black was summoned to write 
with tears and sobs of the unfortunate woman in the case. The 
tremolo stops were pulled. This time there were four women at the 
press table— Dorothy Dix, Ada Patterson, Nixola Greeley-Smith and 
Mrs. Black. The reporters covering the running story sat at tables in 
the center of the court room. The feature writers had a row of seats 
in a corner. This was known as the royal pew. Irvin Cobb was one 
of its occupants. A cynical colleague, looking a little wearily at the 
four fine-looking girls who spread their sympathy like jam, injected 
a scornful line into his copy about the “sob sisters.” This was the 
origin of a phrase that in time became the hallmark of the girl 
reporter and only recently has worn thin from much abuse. 

These four, then, were the first official sob sisters. Their function 
was to watch for the tear-filled eye, the widow’s veil, the quivering 
lip, the lump in the throat, the trembling hand. They did it very 
well. Ada Patterson was the cynic in the row. She studied the face 
of beautiful Evelyn Nesbit Thaw under the lace niching of her 
black velvet hat and concluded that her defense of Harry Thaw 



66 Ladies of the Press 

was all the bunk. However, her scepticism did not show in Miss Pat- 
terson’s copy. 

By this time Winifred Black was as well known in the East as 
in the West. She had no permanent resting place. She moved where 
the news broke. She went to England to write about the suffra- 
gettes when they were still horrifying creatures who poured acid 
into bright red letter boxes and kicked bobbies in the stomach. 
She investigated the Juvenile Court system in Chicago and pressed 
some needed reforms. In New York she launched an investiga- 
tion of the Charity Organization Society. She went to El Paso to 
do a human interest story on the prize fight that was supposed to 
be the last one in America. A story she wrote on pigeon shooting 
at Del Monte brought an abrupt finish to this sport and resulted in 
her getting medals from the humane societies of Great Britain and 
America. She raised money to install a new ward each Christmas at 
the children’s hospital in San Francisco. It is still known as the Little 
Jim endowment. 

When Mr. Hearst’s mother, Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, died 
in 1919 at the age of seventy-six, he insisted that Annie Laurie and 
no one else should write the story of her life. He gave orders that if 
she were not within reach, the straight news account was to stand 
until she could be found, and then she was to do a feature. It 
so happened that when the news came she was on a ferry boat on 
her way to Berkeley to attend a meeting. Her office made frantic 
attempts to reach her and finally succeeded. She had forty minutes 
to edition time, but she turned out three columns of copy. Later 
she wrote a biography of Mrs. Hearst, doing 54,000 words in twelve 
days, believing that it was coming out in pamphlet form. But the 
story was printed on parchment, the type was set by hand and the 
volumes cost $150 each. 

Annie Laurie was always part of the life of San Francisco, right 
back to her girlhood days when, posing as a Salvation Army lass, 
like Nellie Bly, she went into the worst dives of the city to see how 
the Army functioned and then wrote a story that killed the criticism 
that had been growing up about the organization. Her power grew 
with the years. When the florists tried to do away with the San 
Francisco flower stands, she raised such a hullabaloo that they hur- 
riedly backed down and let the vendors continue their picturesque 
business. After the exposition of 1915, the speculators tried to seize 
the site and tear down the Palace of Fine Arts, which Annie Laurie 
considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. She 
organized societies and clubs to fight this move, and every time there 
was a hint of demolition, she gave such loud shrieks of anguish in a 
public way that the matter was dropped cold. 



The First Sob Sisters 67 

She wore the gold star of the San Francisco police department. 
She was the Mother of the South O’Market boys’ club and led the 
grand march at the policemen’s ball. She helped to start many of 
the young in the newspaper game. When the novice climbed the 
hill and asked her for advice she told them: “The ideal newspaper 
woman has the keen zest for life of a child, the cool courage of a 
man and the subtlety of a woman. A woman has a distinct advantage 
over a man in reporting, if she has sense enough to balance her 
qualities. Men always are good to women. At least I have found 
them so, and I’ve been in some of the toughest places.” 

Mrs. Black chose Annie Laurie for a pen name because her mother 
was Scotch and had often sung her the song. When she rated her 
first by-line and was asked suddenly how the story should be signed, 
she thought of the old ballad. No reporter in those days would 
dream of using her own name. Her intimate friends called her 
Laurianna. She was married twice. Her first husband was Orlow 
Black of San Francisco. Her second was Charles A. Bonfils of Den- 
ver. For one brief period in her life she was away from the Hearst 
management and worked for the Denver Post. She had two sons, 
both of whom died. Her one book, The Little Boy Who Lived on 
the Hill y is the story of the eldest, who was drowned while bathing 
at Carmel in 1926. Her daughter, Mrs. Winifred Barker, has never 
shown any interest in writing. 

Soon after her seventy-second birthday Mrs. Black flew over 
Mount Shasta, ten thousand feet up. Her love for speed and excite- 
ment would not die. To her each moment of living was personal, 
vivid, colossal. This was what made her a spectacular newspaper 
woman. She was a striking example of the fruits of personal ex- 
ploitation. 

Ada Patterson also went through the hoops of sensational jour- 
nalism with the perfect touch for what she was doing. Her work 
on the Thaw case was penetrating and adroit, for Miss Patterson, 
under a mild manner, has a shrewd knowledge of human reactions 
in the light of fierce publicity. 

She got her first New York newspaper job because she had seen 
a man hanged; in fact, had stood beside him on the scaffold while he 
died. He was Dr. Arthur Duestrow, the son of a St. Louis mining 
millionaire. One winter day he drove up to his home in a sleigh. 
He was in a drunken frenzy and could not understand why his wife 
should keep him waiting. He called her. She didn’t hear. He jumped 
out of the sleigh and ran indoors. There was a row, a shot, a scream, 
a child’s cry. He had shot his wife. The child went on crying. He 
seized her by the ankles and dashed out her brains against the wall. 

The trial that followed was sensational. Charles B. Johnson, for- 



68 Ladies of the Press 

mer governor of Missouri, was his counsel and he carried the case to 
the higher courts. The defense was insanity, but the verdict of guilty 
was always affirmed. “You are demanding the life of a maniac un- 
accountable for his deeds,” Mr. Johnson flung at his opponents in 
court time and again. This was more than a legal gesture. He be- 
lieved it with all his heart and fought hard to prove his point. The 
prisoner’s actions strongly bore him out. But on a snowy day in 
1897 he was hanged at Union, Missouri. 

When the time for his execution drew near Miss Patterson, who 
was then working on the St. Louis Republican , was assigned to take 
the place of a fellow worker who had gone on a bender. As she 
had interviewed Dr. Duestrow several times in jail, her city editor 
thought her a logical enough selection for the gruesome task. 

She went into his cell to talk to the youth shortly before he was 
led to the scaffold. They could hear the nails being hammered in the 
gallows outside. 

“Do you know what is going on, Dr. Duestrow?” she demanded. 

“I have a pretty good idea,” he told her calmly. 

“Have you seen Governor Johnson lately?” she asked. 

“Have you?” he retorted. “I wrote to him that you and I were 
going to be married.” 

His delusions were many. A little earlier he had insisted that he 
was going to marry Queen Wilhelmina. He raved continually about 
marching armies and mythical war gods. When the hour of his death 
approached the crowds swarmed so thickly around the scaffold that 
Miss Patterson was hoisted up on the platform. The wretched man 
noticed her as he mounted the steps. 

“Good morning, miss,” he said in a clear tone. 

“What do you want to say?” she prompted him. 

“There is going to be a war,” he remarked irrelevantly. 

As the black cap was put over his head he turned toward Miss 
Patterson and gestured with a thin brown hand: “I didn’t kill my 
wife. There she stands.” 

The arm of another reporter steadied the stupefied girl. To this 
day she wonders whether he died shamming insanity. Her story 
about the execution was a testament of shivering horrors. Bradford 
Merrill, then with the World , later with the American — the editor 
whose much advertised slogan was vigilance, enterprise and accuracy 
—saw the story and summoned her to New York. 

But when she arrived he was away on vacation and no one else 
knew about Miss Patterson. She was short of funds and had the 
dismayed feeling that many girl reporters have had when they tried 
to crash the New York newspaper field and found that the gates 



The First Sob Sisters 69 

wouldn’t budge; that even the office boys looked at them with 
chilly eyes. 

By chance she met a man she had known in the West. “Doing 
anything?” he asked. 

“No,” said Miss Patterson. 

“Come over to our shop. An editor wants a woman’s job done 
in a hurry.” 

“Our shop” was the American. The editor in question did not 
waste words. “I want someone to go down in the caisson of the 
bridge being built across the East River,” he said. “The men who 
work in the caisson are having the bends. The air pressure is apt to 
cause deafness. Want to take the risk?” 

“Gladly,” said Miss Patterson. 

In this way she made her debut in New York. She went down in 
the caisson; it wasn’t such a bad experience. She wrote the story. 
Her paper, feeling sure that it was exclusive, held it out for several 
days. In the meantime the World had got wind of the fact that a 
girl had pulled a new stunt under the East River. The rival editors 
worked fast and had one of their own young ladies explore the 
regions of the sand hog. The result was that both papers appeared 
simultaneously with a caisson story. This was a bitter pill for Miss 
Patterson, but these were cut-throat days. She took it out many times 
on her rivals later, for she garnered a rare crop of exclusive stories 
for her paper. 

Some of her best work was done on the trial of Charles Becker, 
the police lieutenant who was electrocuted for the murder of Her- 
man Rosenthal. On the October night in 1912 that the verdict was 
brought in, Miss Patterson happened by chance to take the seat that 
Mrs. Becker had occupied throughout the trial. The wife was not 
in the court room that night, because word had already leaked out 
that the verdict was death. 

As the jury filed in, Becker weakened for a moment and looked 
helplessly in the direction of the chair, expecting to see his wife. 
He stared straight into Ada Patterson’s observant eyes. She could 
read the fright in his. A moment later the verdict was announced. 
He took it like a man in bronze, without moving, but she saw him 
swallow, detected the straining muscles of his neck. She had seen 
many men condemned to death but had never witnessed such out- 
ward composure. 

Miss Patterson was the first reporter to interview Mrs. Lillian 
Rosenthal after the murder took place. While the house was being 
guarded by members of her craft, she got in and talked to her by 
getting a letter from Charles S. Whitman, district attorney at the 
time and later Governor of New York State. 



70 Ladies of the Tress 

“I spend my days praying that Becker will be punished for his 
coward’s crime/’ she told Miss Patterson. 

The case moved slowly. There were the usual appeals. The fight 
went on for three years. At last the date of execution drew near. 
Miss Patterson went to Mrs. Rosenthal. 

“Where are you going to be on the night of the execution?” 
she asked. 

“I think the only thing to do is to hide.” 

“Well, come and hide with me.” 

So for two days and nights, while reporters hunted high and low 
for Mrs. Rosenthal, she was hidden in Miss Patterson’s apartment in 
the Forties. On the night of Becker’s death they kept vigil together, 
receiving bulletins from hour to hour. 

“Governor Whitman has received Mrs. Becker,” came a flash, “but 
as she has no new evidence to offer he has declined to interfere.” 
. . . “Becker is calm.” ... “A clergyman has been praying with 
him.” . . . 

Mrs. Rosenthal was bitter. She poured out her wrath in Miss Pat- 
terson’s ears. 

At last the final flash came from the American city room. It was 
early morning. They had talked all night. Becker had died at 5:53 
a.m. It had taken three shocks to kill him. 

Mrs. Rosenthal fell back across the bed, exhausted. 

“Now he has atoned,” she exclaimed. “God save his soul.” 

When Nan Patterson became the pet murder defendant of 1904, 
Ada had to testify to an interview she had had with her in jail. 
She had sent her a note hidden in a basket of fruit, asking for a 
few minutes’ talk, and the prisoner, struck by the similarity in their 
names, had seen her. 

Nan Patterson was the Floradora girl who was charged with mur- 
dering Caesar Young, her bookmaker lover. The killing was rather 
public— in a hansom. There were witnesses who thought they saw 
her pull the trigger, but it made little difference in court. She was 
soft-voiced, beautiful. She had a patient air, and was an excellent 
witness in her own behalf. By the time she got off the stand the 
jury was quite persuaded that Caesar had shot himself. Ada Patter- 
son, not at all gullible, always believed that he had. 

The trial was a sensation. The Earl of Suffolk, who was engaged 
to Margaret H. Leiter, sat on the bench beside the judge, absorbing 
local color. Women battered at the doors. They were told sternly 
that a murder trial was no place for the weaker sex, but by main 
force they got in and the Times reporter was so shocked that he 
made this invasion part of his lead next morning. 

Nan celebrated riotously the night she got off. She was quite a 



The First Sob Sisters 71 

public darling while her vogue was on, but after the acquittal she 
was soon forgotten. More than one trial had been needed to make 
her freedom final. Less popular with the public was the dreary Mrs. 
Annie M. Bradley, who was charged two years later with the mur- 
der of Senator Arthur Brown, of Utah, in a Washington hotel. The 
motive was clear. He intended to throw her over to marry Mrs. 
Annie Adams, the mother of Maude Adams, the actress. 

There was no doubt of her guilt, but Miss Patterson unwit- 
tingly got the evidence that would have proved premeditation, had 
she chosen to use it in her paper. Mrs. Bradley had two children 
which she said were the Senator’s. He always denied they were his. 
But her married life had been broken up on his account. When he 
left to join Mrs. Adams in Washington she pursued him from Salt 
Lake City. She told Miss Patterson about it later in jail. 

“I swore over the bodies of our children out West that if he did 
not marry me I would kill him,” she said, tears streaming down her 
face. “I came East to find him. The clerk gave me the key to his 
room. I found some letters that turned my suspicion to certainty. 
He was deserting me. He did intend to marry the other woman.” 

Miss Patterson stared at the hysterical prisoner, half on her knees 
in the cell. Clearly, she did not know that she had established a per- 
fect case of premeditation. Miss Patterson left her, confronted with 
a problem that now and again invades the reporter’s conscience. 
She knew that if she held her tongue the woman would get off. 
She was a pitiable creature and her official story was the usual 
threadbare tale of a struggle, the mind going blank, the gun going 
off— which was somewhat different from the deliberate trip from 
Salt Lake City, bringing a revolver with her. 

When she got back to New York Miss Patterson’s mind was made 
up. She wrote the story of the interview in three instalments. It 
was all interesting reading. She left out the vital line that established 
premeditation. Six months later Mrs. Bradley told her lawyer the 
same story. 

“Have you ever mentioned this to anyone?” he asked. 

“Yes, to Ada Patterson,” she said. 

“My God, a newspaper woman! She’s saving it for the trial. She’ll 
spring it on us then.” 

Miss Patterson went to Washington to cover the trial. The day 
before it began, Mrs. Bradley sent for her. She was greatly agitated. 

“I said a good deal to you the day you were here,” she said. “I 
spoke of many things that I shouldn’t have mentioned.” 

Miss Patterson set her mind at rest. She seemed to her one of the 
most pathetic women defendants she had ever seen. “You did tell 



72 Ladies of the Press 

me a lot,” she agreed. “I published everything that I could re- 
member.” 

The woman went on the stand and swore that Senator Brown had 
come into the room, had knocked her about in his rage at finding 
her there, and that then the revolver had gone off. In her letters 
to the Senator she had always been his “little mint julep.” But Ada 
Patterson wrote of her as his “bond woman.” The lawyers picked 
up the phrase and cemented it into the testimony of the trial. Mrs. 
Bradley was acquitted with flying colors in 1907. 

Miss Patterson took an active hand also in a famous triangle case 
revolving around Claudia Libbey Hains, the beautiful wife of Major 
Peter C. Hains, who shot and killed W. E. Annis, her lover. The 
major was in the Philippines when he got word from his brother, 
Thornton Jenkins Hains, that his wife was constantly in the com- 
pany of Annis, a magazine publisher. 

The husband hurried home and confronted his wife. She confessed 
and he brought suit for divorce. Two months elapsed, then she de- 
cided on a counter-suit. A few days later loungers and bathers at 
the Bayside Yacht Club were horrified to see Major Hains pump 
several bullets into Annis as he emerged from the water. 

Mrs. Hains fled to her mother’s home in a suburb of Boston. Ada 
Patterson went in pursuit. By using the name of a friend of the 
murdered man she got in to see Mrs. Hains— the only reporter to 
interview her. The conversation that followed was remarkably re- 
vealing. Although intelligent, Mrs. Hains was totally lacking in a 
sense of self-preservation. She seemed unconscious that she had a 
yellow journalist sitting across from her in the drawing-room, tak- 
ing mental notes. She condemned her husband, stood by her lover, 
talked bitterly of love and marriage. Everyone in the case was promi- 
nent. It was a front-page beat for Miss Patterson, as well as a startling 
human document. The disclosures had been drawn from Mrs. Hains 
by a highly skilled interviewer, for it is in this field that Miss Patter- 
son has always excelled. Though her reportorial work was usually of 
the sensational order she ranks high among the better interviewers— 
a distinct branch of the newspaper profession. She brought a vigor- 
ous intellect to bear on what she was doing, and was adept at all 
the skullduggery of the profession. 

She saw Martha Place— the last woman to be electrocuted in New 
York State before Ruth Snyder— well on her way to the chair. She 
went into a lions’ den at Dreamland, Coney Island, for a story. 
She drove a locomotive from St. Louis to Chicago, went down in 
a submarine, and walked ninety feet on a plank above the City Hall 
in St. Louis while it was being built, to see what the view was like. 

Once she combed the lower East Side, picked out the most mis- 



The First Sob Sisters 73 

erable child she could find and took her to call on Hetty Green, 
This was one of Arthur Brisbane’s ideas— that it would be interesting 
for the richest woman in the world to tell the poorest child in the 
world what she should do to get rich. The child’s parents were 
drunk when Miss Patterson arrived, so they let her go without a 
qualm. Hetty sat at her desk in the bank, her gimlet eyes fastened on 
the little girl. Although she had been coached, the child was too 
frightened to speak, so Miss Patterson sprang the key questions. 
Hetty put her formula in a nutshell, with rusty glee. 

“Save your money and when you get a little ahead, don’t put all 
your eggs in one basket,” she said. 

The little girl agreed readily enough. She was bewildered by her 
surroundings. The sharp eyes of the strange old woman frightened 
her. Hetty didn’t start a savings account for her. But she posed for 
a photograph with the child. 

This was a comparatively quiet day in Miss Patterson’s spectacu- 
lar newspaper life. She was more often on the trail of violence or 
scandal. For a time she did dramatic criticism and she now has a 
wide acquaintance among the people of the stage. In 1923 she re- 
signed to devote her time to magazine work. She entered journalism 
by way of a pupil teacher’s desk and long before she found the open 
door on Park Row, she was known as the Nellie Bly of the West. 



{74} 


Chapter Vll 

THE LOVE FORUM 


W hen Mrs. Frances Noel Hall mounted the witness 
stand on a dull November day in 1926 and scornfully 
denied the murder of Mrs. Eleanor Mills, she was 
watched with sage eyes from the press row by a tiny figure, house- 
wifely and plump, who looked like somebody’s grandmother who 
had strayed by accident onto a scene of horror. 

Few knew that she was Dorothy Dix, billed with ample justifica- 
tion by her syndicate as America’s Mother Confessor, the most 
highly paid newspaper woman in the world. She looked too mild 
for such grim surroundings. Her smile was kind, her silver hair 
reassuring under the cluster of cherries that bobbed from the brim 
of her hat. 

Yet no one who witnessed the melodramatic happenings in the 
courtroom at Somerville, New Jersey, was any better fitted to esti- 
mate the motives of the eccentric human beings who made the Hall- 
Mills trial one of the remarkable news events of the period. The 
story of the choir singer who stole the rector’s love and died a 
violent death with him under the crab apple tree in de Russey’s 
Lane held no surprises for her. For nearly thirty years she had been 
watching the murder defendants who made newspaper history. As 
far back as 1904 she saw Nan Patterson’s cunning performance on 
the witness stand. Three years later she listened to Evelyn Nesbit 
Thaw weeping and baring her love secrets to save the life of Harry 
Thaw. Dorothy Dix has covered many trials since then but she still 
regards this as the perfect murder story from the newspaper point 
of view. 

The last time she stepped out in response to an editor’s summons 
was for the Hall-Mills case. When it was over and the defendants 
went free, it was generally conceded that her stories were the best 
analytical writing done on the trial. It is one of her few boasts that 
no defendant whom she believes to be innocent ever has been con- 
victed. Her stories were sympathetic to Mrs. Hall, the rector’s widow 



The Love Forum 75 

who went through the trial with a show of fortitude and pride that 
baffled the hostile forces crowding her on all sides. 

In all her experience, Dorothy Dix never had seen a woman 
charged with murder show such a granite surface. Nor had anyone 
else. Mrs. Hall stared with amused disdain at the wax bust of her 
rival, Mrs. Mills, ghoulishly introduced by the prosecution-a child- 
ish trick designed to unnerve her. The same mockery was apparent 
when Jane Gibson, the pig woman, dragged into court on her bed 
in a dying condition, screamed her identification of Mrs. Hall as the 
woman she saw weeping by the light of the moon beside the dead 
bodies in de Russey’s Lane, when her mule carried her close to the 
crab apple tree. 

Dorothy Dix was covering the story for the New York Post , but 
the headlines played her up in the strictly personal manner to which 
she had become accustomed on the Journal — “Hall Defendants 
Amaze Miss Dix.” She was not anxious to cover the Hall-Mills trial. 
She never has cared for the undisciplined rush of human emotions 
inseparable from a great murder mystery. To most reporters the 
Thaw, Hall-Mills, Leopold-Loeb or Hauptmann trials, terrible in 
fact, would be memorable peaks in their careers. Newspaper women 
have done their best work on murder trials, when their pictorial 
sense and emotional reactions have helped them to write con- 
vincingly. 

But Dorothy Dix took the assignment without question, left her 
home in New Orleans for a furnished room in Somerville, sweated 
over her copy every night like any novice and did a workmanlike 
job. She was nearing sixty at the time. She had listened to more than 
her share of the world’s grief and had been a spectator at the daz- 
zling news events of nearly three decades. 

Now she prefers the peace of her fireside, or the mild stimulus 
of travel. She lives in an apartment in New Orleans, surrounded by 
old carved furniture from French chateaux. She dines at a table taken 
from the palace of a Bonaparte, under a chandelier that has dropped 
wax on the dandies of the Empire. She has traveled around the 
world a number of times and has collected bronzes, mosaics, em- 
broideries— all the loot of the Orient. For week-ends she flees from 
the telephone and her mail to a long white house set among oaks 
eighty miles out of New Orleans. There she gardens, sees her most 
intimate friends, lives an animated and inquiring life. It is absolutely 
necessary for her to escape now and again from her mail, for she is 
credited with an audience of 35,000,000 readers and receives from 
100 to 1,000 letters a day. Her column syndicates in 200 papers in 
America, Canada, England, the Philippines, Japan, China, South 
Africa and Australia, and is translated into Japanese and Spanish. 



7 6 Ladies of the Tress 

Nothing amuses her more than to be asked if she makes up the 
letters on which she bases her columns. There is little need for such 
stuffing. A visitor from Mars would find her correspondence an 
illuminating commentary on the American people. It has a bit of 
everything. At times she may smooth out the sequences or correct 
the grammar in order to meet newspaper standards, but beyond that, 
the cries of pain and distress are apparently genuine outpourings of 
the human heart. Each letter receives serious consideration. Her style 
in handling them is mellow and sometimes profound. Even the 
changing tempo of the woman’s page has not shunted Dorothy Dix’s 
smoothly written philosophy from a leading place, for she has kept 
step with the times. The problems may have changed to some extent, 
but the essential constituents are nonvariable. 

She can be sharp with her correspondents when the occasion 
seems to demand some stiffening of the spine. Her advice has the 
fluidity of all such columns. The viewpoint is never constant. The 
mother-in-law may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow. Miss Dix 
has to deal with the ridiculous as well as the poignant. People ask her 
questions they would never fling at their friends. “Many of the 
problems are so intricate that only Almighty Wisdom itself can 
solve them, but to all I give understanding, and the best advice I 
have in the shop,” she says. 

The response she gets might overwhelm anyone less balanced. 
Physicians tell her that they give her articles to their neurotic femi- 
nine patients instead of pills and potions. Girls write to inform her 
that she has turned their feet from dangerous paths. Discouraged 
housewives bless her for the assurance she gives them that the kitchen 
can be the shrine of noble effort. She is effective at persuading the 
hesitant man or woman that the double life leads to grief. On a few 
occasions she has had the assurance that her advice prevented 
suicide. 

Dorothy Dix is known as Mrs. Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer in 
New Orleans, where she had her newspaper start and now makes 
her permanent home. She was born on November 18, 1870, on a 
race-horse farm that lay on the border line of Kentucky and Ten- 
nessee. She grew up in great isolation, so far as the outside world 
was concerned. Up to the time she was twenty she had not traveled 
beyond Nashville, had rarely ridden on a train, had never seen a 
play. When she told this to a well-known editor in the early days of 
her success, he said, “Now, by Jove, I understand you and your 
work! To a matured mind you bring the keenness of interest of a 
child. Everything is new and wonderful to you, and that is why you 
can give a fresh viewpoint to what you write.” 

But her life on the breeding farm was exciting enough in itself. 



The Love Forum 77 

She used to gallop at breakneck speed with the other children across 
the countryside, yelping dogs behind them. An old thoroughbred, 
once the pride of her grandmother’s stable, frequently raked her off 
his back as she passed under the bough of a tree or a clothesline. 
Her family were the new poor after the Civil War, living a life 
of oddly mingled poverty and luxury. They still owned their house 
and acres. Their silver had been saved by a faithful servant who had 
hidden it in a graveyard so that the “hants” would guard it. Their 
grandmother was an epicure and they had sumptuous fare, peacock 
often being served for dinner. But there was little ready cash, and 
whatever was available went for the upkeep of the farm. The chil- 
dren wore copper-toed shoes and linsey frocks made of wool from 
their own sheep and woven into cloth at a neighboring mill. They 
were taught to fear God, speak the truth, and never whine. Their 
mother instilled some orthodoxy into them; their black mammy 
taught them manners with her knuckles. “Mind yo’ manners,” she 
would say. “Anybody would think yo’ was po’ white.” 

Elizabeth, as she then was known, was educated chiefly in her 
grandfather’s library where a demented old man, like Mr. Dick in 
David Copperfield, taught her to read and to enjoy good fare. How- 
ever, she went eventually to a female academy, and if she failed to 
learn much there, at least she was handsomely graduated in a white 
organdy frock and was launched on the world in true Southern 
fashion. 

At eighteen she married George O. Gilmer and expected to settle 
down to a conventional domestic round for the rest of her life. But 
after a few years he had a severe nervous breakdown which clouded 
their lives and forced her to go out and find some way of earning a 
living for herself and for him. She didn’t know which way to turn, 
became ill from worry and finally went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast 
to recuperate. This move proved to be fate, for it propelled her into 
newspaper work. By chance she stayed next door to Mrs. E. J. Nich- 
olson, who owned and edited the New Orleans Picayune . She 
showed her neighbor a story she had written and it was bought for 
$ 3 . Then she went to work on the Picayune and alnMisr at once 
showed the instincts of a newspaper woman. 

Mrs. Gilmer was zealous in her study of 
She buried herself in books of synonyms^rtt^tfe dictionary 
memorized editorials that she liked and f| 

all parts of the country to see how the^jf .ttie^a^ie fctori^ 

an excellent idea for any aspirant to jour 
the knowledge that she could about ne\ 
fascinating goings-on in any newspaper offic 

Soon she was doing a weekly article for w3 



78 Ladies of the Tress 

the forerunner of her present column. She decided to write realis- 
tically about the relationship of men and women and avoid the 
romantic vaporing of the era. She called her columns the “Dorothy 
Dix Talks.” Women liked them, men read them and the Dorothy 
Dix tradition spread. 

She was on the Picayune from 1896-1901. Then Mr. Hearst, who 
was scouting for talent for his new acquisition, the Journal , invited 
her to join his staff. Her first big assignment was to go to Nebraska 
with Carrie Nation, who had just embarked on her saloon-smashing 
career. This gave Dorothy Dix a rare insight into the psychology 
of termagants and humbugs. She found Carrie a “queer, frowzy, fat, 
unromantic Joan of Arc who heard voices and saw visions, and who 
made no move unless she was spiritually guided.” One night scores 
of women came to her headquarters, each with a brand new hatchet 
concealed in the folds of her skirt. Carrie spent hours on her knees 
praying for a sign, but it didn’t come, and so the foiled reformers 
went home quietly, their battle-axes still unstained with liquor. 

Dorothy Dix worked under Arthur Brisbane and Foster Coates 
during the period when efforts were being made to achieve sensa- 
tional results. She was rushed from one major story to another, 
covering murder trials, vice investigations, political conventions and 
events of broad general interest. Her news stories were suavely writ- 
ten and emotional. She was usually sympathetic to the woman in 
the case, a Hearst tradition, but one which accorded perfectly with 
her own outlook. Right through her reporting days she maintained 
her column, although the strain sometimes was heavy. She joined the 
Wheeler Syndicate in 1917 and the Philadelphia Ledger Syndicate 
in 1923. When the New York Post was bought by J. David Stern in 
1933 her column began to appear again in its old setting, the Journal . 

Dorothy Dix is calm, gentle, truly beloved by those who know 
her. But she is also shrewd and wise. Her earnings are extraordi- 
narily high for a newspaper feature. She is a completely free agent, 
beyond the exigencies of getting copy delivered in time, and she is 
so experienced at this that she keeps well in advance of her schedule. 

She is scarcely five feet tall, even when she wears high heels. She 
has black eyes that twinkle and search and miss very little. Her 
vitality is tremendous. She rises with enthusiasm at seven every 
morning, does a daily dozen, drinks a small cup of black coffee, 
has a slice of toast, then settles down to her mail with her secretary. 
This is a staggering job, but she has grown so adept over the years 
that she can absorb the contents of a letter almost at a glance and 
make up her mind quickly on the issues raised. She has a heavy sense 
of responsibility about her work, based on the conviction that at 
the moment they write to her, her correspondents are undergoing 



The Love Forum 79 

genuine emotional upheaval. Therefore, their letters are not to be 
taken too lightly, however absurd the problems may seem by the 
time they reach the fireside in New Orleans. 

During all the years that Dorothy Dix’s column has been before 
the public another one, equally well known, has been featured in 
the Hearst press. At the turn of the century, when the young dashed 
about on bicycles built for two, they first learned to write to Bea- 
trice Fairfax. They do it even today. From a mere name she has 
become an institution, a catchword, a national pet. 

Just write to Beatrice Fairfax 
Whenever you are in doubt 
Just write to Beatrice Fairfax 
And she will help you out . 

The old song is dead, but the column goes on, in spite of many 
ups and downs. But who is Beatrice Fairfax? Does anyone really 
know? The dark suspicion that a pipe-smoking, cursing male takes 
the love confessions of harassed youth and wisecracks at their ex- 
pense has provided many a newspaper joke. 

The fact is that the Beatrice Fairfax column has been written for 
most of its thirty-seven years by two women who have taken the 
job seriously and now and again have played a hand in destiny. 
The true Beatrice Fairfax, however, is more or less of a metro- 
politan character. Strange ghosts handle the local letters in certain 
parts of the country, so that there is good ground for the suspicion 
that Beatrice Fairfax is often in masquerade. Arthur Brisbane has 
batted for her at a pinch in New York. He supervised the inception 
of the column, and has followed it closely from its start to the 
present time. When it has shown signs of ailing, he has always taken 
a hand and doctored it up. 

Whatever the reason, it has survived the years and changing news- 
paper tastes with singular tenacity. It got a strong hold on the 
public when newspaper features were comparatively rare. The name 
caught on at once; there were songs and jokes about it, and all 
the automatic ballyhoo of a public response. It got over without 
much pushing. 

One day in the summer of 1898, Mr. Brisbane, who was then 
managing editor of the Journal , called in the two young women who 
got out the household page and handed them two letters that had 
just come in to the contributors’ column. One was from a woman 
who wrote that her husband was being lured away from her by a 
siren who met him daily for luncheon. Another girl confessed that 
she had been basely deserted by a young man who had every reason 
to give her his support. 



8o Ladies of the Press 

These were not the usual pro bono publico letters to the editor. 
The current topics were the high cost of living, the burning ques- 
tion of woman suffrage and the right of the citizen to spit in trol- 
leys. 

“Can you use letters like these?” Mr. Brisbane asked. 

“Why not have a column along the same lines?” suggested Marie 
Manning, one of the girls he addressed. 

“That’s a great idea, if you can carry it out,” Mr. Brisbane agreed 
enthusiastically. 

Miss Manning got the job. She had a place in Fairfax County, 
Virginia. She had been reading Dante, so she selected her name by 
the simple process of combining Beatrice with Fairfax, thereby 
giving herself a pseudonym that became nationally known with 
astonishing speed. An idealized pen and ink portrait of Miss Manning 
appeared at the head of her first column. She pasted the picture 
inside her desk but could scarcely foresee what she had started. On 
the same page that day was a picture of the future King Edward 
VIII at the age of four, dressed in a reefer and carrying a toy 
musket. 

At first the column needed a little coercion. Miss Fairfax had to 
dash off a few notes to herself, which was a simple matter, because 
she knew all the answers to her own questions. But she didn’t have 
to keep this up for long. Hearst readers became crazed on the sub- 
ject of putting all their problems up to Beatrice Fairfax. New readers 
joined the family circle and the letters poured in. 

Park Row never had seen so much mail addressed to one indi- 
vidual as to the mysterious Beatrice Fairfax. The Journal offices 
were then in the Tribune building. Office boys went across the 
street to the post office and staggered back laden with sacks of mail 
for her. A grim spinster, secretary to one of the editors, helped sort 
the letters. Miss Manning called her Atropos. She scorned romance, 
and sniffed and muttered under her breath as she slit the horrid 
notes— many of them on lavender paper with spidery scrawlings in 
purple ink. She couldn’t understand the rank emotionalism of the 
Fairfax devotees. 

But Miss Manning and her assistant loved it. They were both 
young and romantic. They felt that this was getting them in touch 
with the larger world. It excited them to see the mail pouring in to 
their department. Beauty and fashions seemed tame by comparison 
with these intimate documents that touched life in the raw. 

Miss Manning was always practical and specific. She avoided the 
emotional response. Her general plan of advice was: “Dry your 
eyes, roll up your sleeves, and dig for a solution.” The favorite 
question was: “What can I do to be more popular?” In the nineties 



The Love Forum 81 

no youth worried on this score, but most of the girls did. Now it 
is usually the other way around among the Beatrice Fairfax corre- 
spondents. One of the most pressing questions of the day was: “Is 
it ladylike to permit a young man to hold and kiss my hand, when 
I’m engaged to someone else?” Beatrice Fairfax always said no. 

The problems she had to meet were legion. She was the Emily 
Post of love. Should the young man go down on his knees while 
proposing? Should he get the consent of the girl’s parents first? 
Should he have the engagement ring ready in his pocket in case the 
girl should say yes? The chaperon was another pressing problem of 
the period. What should they do about her when they went out on 
a bicycle built for two? Was it all right to go for an outing with 
their beaux after church, and was ten o’clock at night too late to get 
home? 

Divorce problems, which make up the bulk of the Beatrice Fair- 
fax letters now, were rarely mentioned in those days. Nor did the 
question of a girl keeping her job after marriage ever arise. All her 
yearnings were toward the ladylike, and the public conception of a 
lady didn’t involve tearing down to the office and mixing in the 
public fray. 

As time went on Beatrice Fairfax was quoted with facetious affec- 
tion in vaudeville skits. She had gone over in a big way. The young 
and the old sought her advice. Miss Manning had become the oracle 
of love. Imitators sprang up everywhere. But she gave up her column 
to marry Herman Gasch. She retired to private life, leaving Beatrice 
Fairfax behind her. For a decade she was busy bringing up a family. 
In the meantime the column fluttered from one pair of hands to 
another. 

When war broke out she took on the job again. Then she retired 
for a time, but when the depression came along she resumed direc- 
tion of the popular column she had created. She now conducts a 
regionalized Beatrice Fairfax column from Washington, where she 
also covers Mrs. Roosevelt for the International News Service. The 
questions she answers are broader in scope than they were at the 
beginning of the century. Love is still the dominant note, but she 
also gives advice on education, vocational training, and the eco- 
nomic problems of the day. 

The original Beatrice Fairfax is six feet tall, lively, witty, an 
adroit speaker at women’s clubs. Her home is in Washington. She 
has a farm twelve miles out in Virginia where she grows del- 
phiniums nearly as tall as herself and leads an animated family life. 
She writes books and magazine articles and has traveled extensively. 

As Marie Manning she started her newspaper career on the 
World when she was twenty. She was one of the girls who worked 



82 Ladies of the Tress 

their way in through the space system. She was pursuing elusive facts 
from Harlem to the Battery when her managing editor called her 
in one day and told her he was going to send her out on an assign- 
ment that had stumped the most experienced reporters. “Of course, 
you won’t succeed,” he told her bluntly, “but Mr. Pulitzer has sent 
word from Bar Harbor that if all the good reporters on the paper 
have tried and failed, then we are to send some of the bad ones.” 

Her task was to get to Grover Cleveland and ask him what he 
would do about going to war with Spain if he were still President 
of the United States. All the other reporters who had gone to his 
home in Princeton had been thrown off the steps. But Miss Manning 
stepped blithely off the train on a lovely spring morning, nothing 
but hope in her heart. She was so green that she did not know what 
she was up against. Her card did not indicate that she represented 
the World . It gave her address as the Hotel Judson, on Washington 
Square, where she was living at the time, a few rooms away from 
Mrs. R. L. Stevenson and her son and daughter. 

It so happened that she had the same name as the daughter of 
Daniel Manning, who had been Mr. Cleveland’s Secretary of the 
Treasury. She was admitted without question. The former Presi- 
dent came in, his face lighted with an anticipatory smile, which 
froze suddenly when he saw a huge girl rise to her feet and an- 
nounce that she represented the World. She was almost speechless 
with terror, now that she had reached her quarry. She couldn’t 
think of anything to ask him. 

He let her know at once that he had turned down everyone else. 
But she began to detect signs of compassion in his face when she 
told him that this was her first important assignment. 

“And what happens if you go back without your story?” he 
asked. 

“Oh, we’re fired, if not boiled in oil,” said Miss Manning, her 
spirits beginning to pick up. 

He asked her if she had a pencil. Her hopes skyrocketed as she 
hunted through her purse for one. He dictated a statement. It was 
short, but under the circumstances it was important. He said that 
nothing was easier than to criticize a President; that the difficulties 
which beset the office of chief executive could not be imagined by 
anyone who had not held it. He urged patience on the part of the 
people and said he hoped they would not attempt to rush the Presi- 
dent into war by unthinking clamor. 

Miss Manning went back to her office and was received with 
amazement by her more seasoned colleagues. She told them at once 
about the mistake in identity, aqd then they understood. Mr. Hearst 
was putting the Spanish-American War across. Mr. Pulitzer was 



The Love Forum 83 

delighted to run the Cleveland statement in the World . He sent her 
$50 in gold for a smart, if inadvertent, piece of work. 

From the World Miss Manning went to the Herald , lured by the 
idea of doing music criticism and attending all the best concerts. 
She found the owl-encrusted building on Herald Square haunted by 
the ghost of its strange proprietor, James Gordon Bennett, who 
visited America at intervals of ten years or more, yet kept so closely 
in touch with his office that the legend was he knew when the 
wastebaskets were emptied. 

It was a short step from the Herald to the Journal and the Beatrice 
Fairfax column. The success of the feature amazed its originator. 
As time went on it became a gold mine for Hearst, selling to 200 
papers and sometimes bringing in as many as 1,400 letters in a day. 
The column has changed slightly in character from time to time 
as different writers have handled it, but aside from the founder, the 
person who carried it for the longest period was Lilian Lauferty, 
who joined the staff of the Journal during the war and wrote the 
Beatrice Fairfax column until 1924, when she married James Wolfe, 
the Metropolitan opera star. 

Miss Lauferty is the daughter of Minnie Eliel, who was a social 
worker and a cousin of Felix Adler. She was born in Fort Wayne, 
Indiana, and was brought up in an atmosphere of public benefac- 
tion. She met Mr. Brisbane at the home of Nathan Straus. He said 
to her, “Your mother’s daughter ought to be able to big sister the 
world.” Soon she was Beatrice Fairfax, the recipient of more than one 
million letters during the years that she ran the department. They 
reached her from such distant points as Harbin, the Philippines and 
Alaska. 

Before the war 75 per cent of the Beatrice Fairfax letters were 
from women. After the war 45 per cent were from men. From 
1914 to 1918 half of the letters were from girls between sixteen and 
nineteen years of age. More recently 66 per cent of the mail has 
been from men and women between twenty-five and forty-five. 
Thus the column no longer caters to giddy youth as it did in the 
valentine age. There is more real tragedy behind it now. The mail is 
full of letters about homes that are breaking up, the forays of the 
love pirate, the ennui of the restless wife and the problem of the 
children of divorced parents. In the nineties when a girl got married, 
that practically ended all correspondence with Beatrice Fairfax. Now 
marriage is only the beginning of the widespread traffic with the love 
oracle. 

One of Miss Lauferty’s strangest experiences as Beatrice Fairfax 
was the twenty-page letter she received from a woman who wrote 
that she was in love with her employer but could not bear to steal 



84 Ladies of the Press 

him from his wife and children. He was in love with her, too. Miss 
Lauferty recognized the genuine note of agony in the letter. Much 
practice had accustomed her to the emotional variations of her corre- 
spondents, so that it was easy to detect an authentic plea for aid. 
She felt it was a case for personal action but she did not know 
how to reach the writer. The girl had given her name but no ad- 
dress. She put a note in her column but there was no response. A 
few days later the front pages of the papers carried the story of the 
double suicide of the girl and her employer in a public park. 

Futility and tragedy underlie many of the Beatrice Fairfax letters. 
They often come from weaklings who are afraid of the machinery 
they have set in motion and do not know how to cope with it. Fear 
is apparent in their self-abasing scrawls as they turn to a symbolic 
figure and shrive themselves for the time being. Few of them are 
self-conscious about attaching their true names and addresses, even 
to the most revealing documents. Such is their trust in the detach- 
ment of the love forum. 

To meet this craving, which had its first journalistic expression in 
the Beatrice Fairfax column, papers all over the country feature 
their own confessionals, on the theory that one section of the public 
yearns to see its woes in print. They buy them as syndicate features 
or employ women to run them locally. The most remarkable ex- 
ample at the present time, outside of the syndicate field, is Nancy 
Brown of the Detroit News , although she is averse to having her 
department carry the lovelorn label. 

When Malvina Lindsay took over the woman’s page of the Wash- 
ington Post she decided on a column that would skirt the senti- 
mental issues and be of practical aid to those who needed help. Her 
assistant, Mrs. Elizabeth Reardon Young, a newspaper woman from 
Ohio, was assigned to carry out her plan. The column now appears 
as “This Business of Living” under the pen name of Mary Haworth. 

Mrs. Young answers questions on dress, etiquette, ethics, phi- 
losophy, psychology and religion, as well as love. She tackles each 
letter much as a reporter goes into action to get the facts on a story. 
She ferrets out the proper sources to supply the answers, instead of 
functioning as the oracle herself. She has the cooperation of the 
social, medical and educational associations in Washington, and is 
able to give her correspondents tangible aid from time to time. 

Dorothy Dix was succeeded on the New York Post by Anne 
Hirst, who does an excellent job of her syndicated column and also 
edits the woman’s page. She is a Baltimore girl, the daughter of a 
physician and the granddaughter of a Methodist minister. She en- 
tered newspaper work by way of advertising. First she did depart- 
ment store, then national advertising, and was war correspondent 



The Love Forum 85 

in France for the magazine of the Suffrage Unit. On her return she 
ran her own advertising agency in Cleveland. Then she joined the 
staff of the Cleveland Times , doing a shopping page of her own, and 
a daily radio program which she sold, wrote and broadcast. 

After she married Leslie Peat, a newspaper editor, she moved 
with him to Philadelphia and tried the stay-at-home life, but didn’t 
like it. So in 1930 she became woman’s editor of the Philadelphia 
Record. The paper wanted a “heart” column, and she launched her 
own. For three days she wrote letters to herself and answered them. 
On the fourth day three letters arrived. Then they came in showers. 
In a remarkably short space of time her mail reached impressive 
proportions. Unlike most women running columns of this kind, she 
uses part of her own baptismal name, which is Anne Hirst Curry. 

One-third of her mail is from men, mostly of the professional 
class. An analysis of a thousand of her letters, taken at random just 
as they were opened, showed that only 17 per cent were from 
adolescent readers. This included a number from mere children, 
smitten with calf-love. It also included the unmarried girls who 
would rather tell Anne Hirst than their mothers when they are 
going to have babies. 

Why do men and women write about their most intimate prob- 
lems to a stranger— and to one who can answer them only through a 
newspaper? Anne Hirst’s answer is because they have nowhere else 
to turn. Often she hears the sequel, when her advice has been fol- 
lowed, for she belongs to the small but extremely potent group of 
newspaper women who get closer to the public than any other class 
of newspaper writer. Their mail is a revelation of human grief and 
weakness. 

The lovelorn editor is working against heavy odds when she sits 
down to advise the baffled, the hopeless, the desperate. She rarely 
hears from the successful or contented newspaper reader. She holds 
the grab bag for the woes of the reading public. 



{ 86 ] 


Chapter VIII 

HORACE GREELEY’S GRANDDAUGHTER 


W hen Mrs. Astor made the grave mistake of sending 
$2 by way of a maid to Horace Greeley’s granddaugh- 
ter, she got one of the few snubs of her buffered life. 
‘‘Tell Mrs. Astor,” said Nixola Greeley-Smith to the horrified 
maid, “that she not only forgets who I am, but she forgets who she 
is. Give her back the $2 with my compliments and tell her that 
when John Jacob Astor was skinning rabbits, my grandfather was 
getting out the Tribune and was one of the foremost citizens of 
New York.” 

This interchange took place at the turn of the century when 
Nixola was doing a series of interviews with social leaders for the 
Sunday World. Mrs. Astor, known then and thereafter as the Mrs. 
Astor, had never talked to a reporter, but Nixola went to her with 
a letter of introduction from Chauncey M. Depew. Mrs. Astor re- 
ceived her and talked quite frankly. She gave her views on all sorts 
of things after her clever interviewer had persuaded her that what 
Queen Victoria was to England and the Empress Eugenie was to 
France, she was to the United States. This cut ice with the un- 
crowned queen of New York society. 

Nixola was not altogether prepared for an interview. She thought 
that it was to be a social chat during which she could make arrange- 
ments for the story that she hoped to get. But Mrs. Astor did not 
even connect her with the World . She cataloged her in the rather 
general terms of a magazine writer. Nixola won her completely and 
before she left she had an excellent interview. Few reporters would 
have dreamed at that time of walking in on Mrs. Astor and getting 
her to talk for publication. Her inaccessibility was a newspaper 
tradition. 

Nixola went back to her office, her mind made up that she would 
see Mrs. Astor again and get her permission before using the story 
in the World , so that there could be no possible misunderstanding 
about it. Her Sunday editor saw no reason for this scrupulous con- 
sideration of Mrs. Astor’s feelings. However, Nixola returned to 842 



Horace Greeley’s Granddaughter 87 

Fifth Avenue and sent up her name. There was a long delay and then 
a maid appeared with the message that Mrs. Astor was sorry but she 
could not see her. She held out a $2 bill. 

“Mrs. Astor sends you this because she knows that you work for 
a living and that you have been put to some trouble coming here,” 
said the maid. 

Nixola stared at the $2 bill, and then at the maid. Her hauteur 
could equal Mrs. Astor’s. 

“Will you deliver a message exactly as I give it to you?” she 
asked. 

“Certainly, madam,” said the maid. 

It was then that Horace Greeley’s granddaughter shot her anni- 
hilating bolt at Mrs. Astor, but she never knew if the message 
reached its mark. She went back to the World , burning with fury. 

“You can print the Astor interview any time you like,” she told 
her editor. 

“Did the dowager actually say yes?” he demanded. 

Then Nixola told him what the dowager had said. 

“Oh, you mustn’t mind a little thing like that,” he told her sooth- 
ingly. “Look at the check for $250 that Mary Baker Eddy once 
sent me. It tickled me so much I had it framed.” 

It was hanging on the wall in his office. But Nixola was not 
appeased. Raging, she sat down and put the caustic finishing touches 
to her story. Posters announced Mrs. Astor’s one and only inter- 
view. Her son stormed into the World office and threatened action 
if the story were run. He insisted that his mother had not given an 
interview to Nixola Greeley-Smith. But the World would not be 
intimidated. 

Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish was another of the social leaders inter- 
viewed as part of the series. She treated Nixola quite differently, 
and for the first time gave her views on society for publication. 
The stories created a stir. The subjects were all women of promi- 
nence who had practically never lent themselves to publicity be- 
fore. 

Annie Leary, Mrs. George Keppel, Mrs. Richard Croker and 
Mrs. Charles H. Parkhurst all talked illuminatingly to Nixola at 
different times and she did an amusing telepathic interview with 
Harry Lehr through a medium. She soon proved herself a news- 
paper woman of exceptional capacity and great personal fascination. 
She started to write for the World at a time when silly newspaper 
stunts had reached their peak. There was immediate interest in her 
along Park Row because of her lineage. The Greeley tradition was 
fresh in the minds of publishers and editors when she wrote to 



88 Ladies of the Press 

Joseph Pulitzer, saying that she would like to enter newspaper work. 
He invited her at once to work for his paper. 

At that time a woman’s club meeting was about the only alterna- 
tive to a stunt, and the women writers on Park Row had thin fare. 
The Home Page, as it was called in the World , was edited by Har- 
riet Hubbard Ayer. Among the subjects for comment were: “The 
Dangers of Getting Off and On Cable Cars the Wrong Way,” “The 
Awkward Way to Pick up a Book” and “How to Singe Hair.” 

The magazine section, on the other hand, struck the sensational 
note. Club women were interviewed on the provocative question: 
“Is the Moral or the Immoral Woman the Greater Power in the 
World?” Marie Corelli was busy “lashing society,” according to 
the current headlines. Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, surprisingly 
enough, was billed as the “worst flirt in Europe,” and columns were 
devoted to such rhetorical questions as: “Is Fashionable Society 
Corrupt and Wicked?” and “Is the Millionaire a Blessing?” 

Kate Carew was doing her clever interviews and caricatures with 
such celebrities as Mark Twain, Coquelin, and Sarah Bernhardt; 
Lavinia Hart was covering the local girls with a touch of humor; 
Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Margherita Arlina Hamm were assigned 
to King Edward’s coronation by different papers; and Emily Craw- 
ford was keeping World readers posted on the Paris Exposition. 
The social world was heavily played in every Sunday issue. 

The quality of Nixola’s work was apparent almost at once. She 
brought a sophisticated touch to bear on the most commonplace 
assignment. She had great dignity and finesse, got entree everywhere 
and inspired confidence. She inherited her grandfather’s instinct for 
newspaper work. Her style was vivid, scholarly, revealing. She had 
more personality than most of the celebrities she interviewed. Fre- 
quently they recognized her special gifts. Lord Northcliffe was so 
impressed by her that he tried to lure her away from the World to 
one of his papers. Mrs. Taft and the first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, 
both publicity shy, talked freely to her. General Joffre gave her a 
personal statement during his visit to America. 

Her triumphs were endless. She had the knack, to a remarkable 
degree, of getting the best out of any subject. She shot her own 
epigrams at the tongue-tied and they came back at her with double 
force. On one occasion she analyzed herself at a reception given by 
the Entertainment Club in the old Waldorf-Astoria: 

I describe myself as a cream-colored journalist because I 
prefer the rich cream of fancy to the skimmed cream of the 
baldest fact. Some people I know don’t like cream in their 
journalism any more than they do in their tea and I have no 
quarrel with mem if they prefer lemon in both. ... A cream- 



Horace Greeley’s Granddaughter 89 

colored journalist is one who interviews a distinguished clergy- 
man in the morning, stops by the Tombs to obtain the views 
of a condemned murderer, gets a pen picture of a big Wall 
Street man, and then goes out of town and gets the opinion of 
a prima donna about some vital subject and telegraphs it in for 
the first edition the following morning. ... If a man you are 
interviewing hasn’t a personality, it is the correct thing to give 
him one, and if he hasn’t sense or tact enough to express an 
opinion, you should branch out with a brilliant epigram or some 
other pearl of thought and wind up with the question “Don’t 
you think so?” 

This, to some degree, was Nixola’s own technique. She could 
take the most unpromising person and mold him into a figure of 
substance, without distorting the picture in the least. When she en- 
countered a fruitful mind, she stripped it bare and turned out an 
interview of depth and subtlety. Her questions were intelligent, 
amusing, surprising and sometimes impertinent, so that people were 
blown off guard. But they found her irresistible. At times she was 
sharp, both in her personal relations and her work. In a dozen 
damning words she could impale the person who annoyed her, but 
she was infinitely gracious to those she liked. 

“I pity the unwary who are interviewed by Nixola Greeley- 
Smith,” said Mary Heaton Vorse on one occasion to Theodora Bean, 
another New York newspaper woman. “She has the smile of a 
happy child, the inscrutability of a sphinx; she has wisdom and 
philosophy, yet behind the sweetest smile she hides a disdain and a 
bitterness that in point and scope can surpass anything I have ever 
known.” 

It was she who popularized the better type of interview for news- 
paper women and made it one of their most useful functions on a 
paper. Every visiting celebrity for nearly two decades was done by 
Nixola Greeley-Smith. She went after people that no one had 
dreamed of interviewing before. She was not afraid to take an aca- 
demic subject and make it good newspaper reading. Her style was 
disarmingly simple; she was flowery only under stress of obviously 
emotional situations and even then she was restrained for the period. 
She was analytical and editorial, and used the capital I, but without 
egotism. 

Nixola was essentially a woman’s writer but she was not in any 
sense of the word a sob sister. However, she happened to be one of 
the four women covering the Thaw trial in 1907, and thereby auto- 
matically came under the blanket indictment leveled at the women 
of the press on that occasion. 

She followed the case with characteristic absorption. Her point of 



90 Ladies of the Press 

view seemed to change as the trial went on. She was critical of 
Evelyn at the start, then became more sympathetic. In one of her 
first stories she wrote: 

I have no illusions about Evelyn Thaw. I think merely that 
she was sold to one man and later sold herself to another, and 
that most of her troubles were due to the fact that the White 
benevolence was a family affair while the Thaw golden shower 
was not so inclusive but fell on Evelyn alone. . . . 

But Nixola’s tone soon changed. She was completely won over to 
Evelyn’s side. This was how she pictured her on the witness stand 
on February 7, 1907, after the white veil that had covered her fea- 
tures during the trial had been removed: 

But the taking off of her white veil this morning revealed the 
fact that another white veil— the filmy fabric of lauded child- 
hood, still wraps her, despite all the sins and shame she has been 
through. Looking at her I almost fancied myself in the chil- 
dren’s court. It did not seem possible that this pale child could 
be the grown-up cause of Stanford White’s alleged drugging 
of her, with such genuine and terrible shame that sitting there 
listening to this baring of her besmirched child’s soul I felt 
myself almost as great a criminal as she made him appear. . . . 
When, broken and trembling, still less moved than those before 
her, she ceased to talk of White and began the story of her life 
in Pittsburgh, the tension relaxed. The horror had been to . 
great even for strangers to endure, and they found relief ir 
hearing her tell of days when they had only biscuits to eat. . . . 

Nixola and one or two of the other newspaper women fled as 
William Travers Jerome drew from Evelyn with savage cross- 
examination the details of her rape by Stanford White. She and her 
colleagues “writhed and bowed their heads before this hideousness” 
but “fled in vain, for the horrors followed them.” Next day she took 
issue with Mr. Jerome, although acknowledging that he was doing 
his duty in his cross-examination. “I am offering no criticism of his 
methods,” she wrote. “I simply feel that compared with the ordeal 
to which this frail young woman is subjected, a prize fight must be 
an elevating spectacle, and a day at the Chicago stockyards a pastoral 
delight.” 

Delphin Delmas, counsel for Thaw, was delighted with the sob 
sisters. “What strikes me most forcibly in the accounts of the Thaw 
trial,” he said, “is the power of analysis and description displayed 
by the women writers. ... I would say that the writing of Miss 
Nixola Greeley-Smith is a most remarkable illustration of feminine 
intuition brought to a logical conclusion.” 



Horace Greeley’s Granddaughter 91 

But Nixola was not at her best on the emotional story. Her mind 
was essentially sharp and creative. She was an intellectual, for the 
moment writing down to what the occasion seemed to demand. She 
did not often veer in this direction. 

Sitting at the press table with her was Andrew W. Ford, whom 
she later married. They had met in the World office and their ro- 
mance developed during the Thaw trial. Mr. Ford was one of the 
editors of the Telegram for years and is now on the Sun. 

Nixola was handsome and memorable, although there was nothing 
striking about her features and she gave little thought to the way 
she dressed. She was short and inclined to be stout, but she had the 
grand manner and was always quite impressive. She had dark hair, 
waved and parted in the middle, and candid brown eyes. Her face 
was full but the nose and chin had a certain piquancy. Her manner 
was soft and wistful and she flushed easily. 

Some time before the war she left the World and went to work 
for NEA. Harry Payne Burton, now editor of Cosmopolitan and 
then on the staff of NEA, had watched her work for years and ad- 
mired it. When he was asked to recommend names to strengthen 
the service he suggested Nixola Greeley-Smith, Franklin P. Adams 
and Walter Lippmann. He had run across Mr. Lippmann while 
working on a story involving the Rev. George R. Lunn, who was 
Socialist Mayor of Schenectady from 1912 to 1914 and later became 
Lieutenant Governor of the State. Mr. Lippmann was working then 
as secretary to Mr. Lunn and Mr. Burton was much impressed by 
him. 

Nixola was making $80 a week at the time. She was offered $7,000 
a year and a two-year contract. She moved from the World edi- 
torial rooms down to the third floor in the same building and went 
to work for NEA. Roy Howard and William W. Hawkins, now 
chairman of the Scripps-Howard board, shared one office at this 
time. There was another large room for the rest of the staff and the 
telegraph instruments. A third room completed their quarters. This 
was the nucleus of the large organization that now functions under 
the direction of Mr. Howard. 

Nixola did not care for her new job. Frank I. Cobb and her other 
friends from the World editorial rooms were constantly stopping 
in to see her. They thought that she should not have made the 
change. She herself was soon persuaded that she had made a mis- 
take. She wanted to write sophisticated interviews and essays on 
women’s rights. She disliked the jazzed-up assignments she got. One 
day she quoted Wordsworth in one of her stories and her copy went 
over the wire “as the poet Wordsworth says,” This was disconcert- 
ing to Nixola. She made up her mind then that she would resign. 



92 Ladies of the Press 

But the final straw was her assignment to work as a salesgirl in 
Woolworth’s one Christmas Eve to write a first-hand story on the 
Christmas shopping rush. She gave it consideration for one evening. 
Next day she walked into the office and mentioned her dead grand- 
father, to whom she rarely alluded. “Last night I talked to my 
grandfather,” she announced, “and he said, ‘You and I have always 
reached such peaks as we have attained in newspaper work by our 
intelligence, our true journalistic sense and good writing. We never 
have had to stoop to cheap tricks and we won’t now.’ And Sam 
Hughes can take my resignation.” 

Nixola’s contract was about to expire in any event. She left and 
went back to the World . But while she was with NEA she did ex- 
cellent work and got practically any assignment she wanted. She 
suggested many of her own stories. It was much the same on the 
World . She could be quite independent in her actions, for her edi- 
tors were hypnotized by her skill at her job. They felt it was an 
honor to have her work for them. She received extravagant offers 
from Mr. Hearst, which she always rejected. 

Although her specialty was the interview, she did good work on 
straight news assignments. She wrote survivor stories on the General 
Slocum disaster and was assigned with Mr. Burton to the Empress 
of Ireland wreck in 1914, when 954 lives were lost. She was a swift, 
careful reporter. She mapped out her stories, typed them awk- 
wardly, but they were always effective, and often sparkling. Her 
picture appeared practically every day on page three of the Eve- 
ning World. 

It was Nixola who gave Theda Bara her professional name. The 
actress was christened Dora Goodman and appeared in the Quaker 
Girl as Theodosia de Coppet. When she went into pictures she de- 
cided that she must have a new name. Nixola gave the matter some 
thought, then picked Theda Bara as suiting her exotic type. The 
Bara is Arab spelled backwards. 

Nixola was a suffragist long before suffrage became fashionable, 
but she was always quite balanced on the subject and retained her 
sense of humor about it. When Mrs. Oliver H. P. Belmont launched 
her “no vote, no husband” campaign, Nixola wrote: “Possessing 
the established supremacy in the realm of emotion, why experiment 
with it at the risk of failure? . . . The slogan will win no votes, 
and possibly lose a great many husbands ... a good thing for 
suffragettes to have, since it guarantees to them at least an audience 
of one.” She was in a theater when she heard that the vote had been 
won for women in New York State. She wept with joy. “This is 
the greatest day of my life,” 6he said. 

Nixola was ailing for at least two years before her death. She had a 



Horace Greeley’s Granddaughter 93 

thyroid condition and lost weight rapidly. When she felt she could 
no longer do the running around required for interviews and general 
news, Zoe Beckley took on this work and Nixola did her writing at 
home, turning out three columns a week on modern marriage and 
the problems of the day. They expressed many of her own theories 
on life and love. 

Her education and upbringing were liberal and unusual. She was 
born in 1880 at Chappaqua, the old Greeley homestead. Her mother 
was Ida Greeley, the eldest daughter of the famous publisher, and 
her father was Colonel Nicholas Smith of Kentucky, a typical 
Southern gentleman with a goatee and courtly manners. Nixola 
adored him. He lived in a midtown hotel in New York in his later 
years and passed much of his time with her and his other daughter, 
now Mrs. Louis F. Geissler, of Northport, Long Island. 

Nixola attended the Sacred Heart Convent in New York, spent 
some time in Canada with her father and from there went to Bel- 
gium, where he was stationed as American consul. Her education 
was completed at Li6ge. She spoke French fluently and one of the 
best interviews she ever did for the World was with Sarah Bern- 
hardt, who was much impressed by her and appreciated the fact 
that she was interviewed in perfect French. 

At twelve Nixola wrote a short play which was published in the 
World. At sixteen, just after her return from Belgium, she did an 
article on the labor movement in that country. Her first mature 
writing was a short story published in Harpers Magazine . At 
eighteen years of age she began writing regularly for the Sunday 
magazine section of the World. She went over to the Evening 
World in 1901. As the years went on she became increasingly en- 
thusiastic about her profession. She often spoke in public, and on 
one occasion said: 

I now believe, as I certainly did not when I adopted it, that 
journalism is the best paid and most self-respecting profession 
open to any woman with a brain to sell. It needs strong health, 
perseverance, good nerves and mental poise. For the woman 
with a good head and a healthy body and no nonsense about 
her, newspaper work presents splendid opportunities. 

Nixola devoted herself heart and soul to her work. She had many 
friends and they all adored her. Her home was in West Orange, 
New Jersey, and there she kept her dogs. This was her one recrea- 
tion outside of her reading, which was extensive and scholarly. She 
preferred the French classics to anything else. She admired Thack- 
eray and considered Vanity Fair the finest book in the English lan- 



94 Ladies of the Press 

guage. From time to time she wrote verse, short stories and essays 
for the magazines. 

Nixola Greeley-Smith died in the spring of 1919 at the age of 
thirty-eight. Marguerite Mooers Marshall, who knew her well, gave 
her impression of her in the following verses published in Ainslees : 

Mom Modema 

Like that great lady of the Renaissance 

Who's sent her sighing poet and lovers away , 

To watch , bright-eyed and lonely , the gold day 
Blur into dark— you in your beauty glance 
From out your portrait— all that may enhance 
Your magic— velvet, lace , the white array 
Of hand and arm and shoulder , interplay 
Of eye and lip and witty brows askance . 

If, debonair , you smile— yet never face 

More questions asked , more happy faiths put by; 

You've dreamed with love and challenged life a space , 

Found love— a fragrance , life— a tired cry; 

Fastidious , frank , ironic in your grace 
And bloom , you smile . ... 7 think you wonder why . 

Miss Marshall is another newspaper woman who has shown rare 
skill at the interview and the woman’s column. Like Nixola Greeley- 
Smith, she brings her own vivid intelligence to bear on the person 
she is questioning. She is shy, hesitant, comes armed with highly 
probing questions, ignores the absurdities of a mass interview and 
sticks to her own line of questioning until she develops a cumulative 
train of thought. 

The mob interview is a development of recent years. It is the lazy 
reporter’s delight but is usually a careless and disorderly proceed- 
ing with so many conflicting questions being hurled at the victim 
that he is likely to shut up in disgust or dismay. The solo interview 
calls for more careful technique and keener mental processes. Both 
Nixola Greeley-Smith and Marguerite Mooers Marshall stand out 
among all their colleagues in this particular phase of newspaper 
work. Fundamentally there is no better outlet for the newspaper 
woman’s skill. She can demonstrate good technique, real intelli- 
gence, humor— if she has any— insight into human nature, knowledge 
and writing ability in the well-planned interview. She can get away 
from the restraints of the copy desk more readily in this type of 
story than any other. And it is the one job that the city editor 
does not necessarily think a man can do better. 

After the shipboard amenities were over, Miss Marshall got the 
first thoroughgoing interview with Margot Asquith when she came 



Horace Greeley's Granddaughter 95 

to New York, including her unexpurgated, off-the-record opinion 
of Lady Astor, which was not flattering. When H. G. Wells came 
over to attend the Disarmament Conference he gave her one of the 
frankest and most intelligent talks she ever had with anyone. In his 
book about the United States Sir Philip Gibbs said that she was the 
best interviewer he encountered in this country. Sir Gilbert Parker 
shared this view. Miss Marshall has interviewed hundreds of celeb- 
rities from all parts of the world, as well as the headliners of America. 
And she has always managed to keep her work on a high plane. 

She is tall, rather slim, has an absent-minded manner, dresses 
mostly in tweeds, cares little for appearances, is creative in her 
work. She is a native of Kingston, New Hampshire. Her family has 
lived in New England since early Colonial days. She was educated 
at Sanborn Seminary and was graduated from Tufts College, taking 
honors in English and Latin, doing four years’ work in three, and 
earning her Phi Beta Kappa key. 

Fresh from college, she headed the Department of English at 
Westbrook Seminary in Portland, Maine, but she wanted to write, 
not teach, so she began almost at once to work without pay in her 
spare time for the Portland Press in order to get experience. Then 
she wrote Sunday stories for the Boston Herald and managed to 
get on the staff of the paper after a few months of teaching. In a 
year her salary was doubled. Next she moved to New York with 
$15.86 in her pocketbook, free-lanced for a few weeks and landed 
on the Sunday World in May, 1909. 

Like Nixola Greeley-Smith, she soon moved over to the Evening 
World , where for twelve years she did feature stories, most of them 
interviews with celebrities. In 1922 she started her column “The 
Woman of It.” This was a free and novel column in which she 
could w r rite about anything that appealed to her at the moment. She 
took the stand that she was a “middle-of-the-road-feminist, pro- 
woman but not anti-man.” She commented philosophically on 
women in public affairs, marriage, love, motherhood, books, home 
life and any topic suggested by the news of the day. She believes 
that women are more interested in these matters than in patterns, 
recipes and the usual woman’s page fodder. 

When the World was sold, Miss Marshall was offered a post in 
the Hearst organization and she joined the staff of the Journal , 
changing the title of her column to “Just Like a Woman.” She still 
writes editorial comment in her chosen vein, contributes to the 
regular editorial page, and does feature articles, such as her running 
comment on the Hauptmann trial. She worked on the Halls-Mills 
and Snyder-Gray trials, and covered the curious witchcraft murder 
trial in Buffalo of Lila M. Jimerson, the Indian girl. She has visited 



9 6 Ladies of the Press 

the Dionne quintuplets practically every month since their birth, 
watching their progress and interviewing Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe 
regularly. 

Miss Marshall has contributed verse and prose to the magazines 
and has had several novels published. Her first was The Drift. Her 
other three are stories of young love written against a New Hamp- 
shire background — None But the Brave , Salt of the Earth , and 
The Golden Height . She corrected proofs of the last one while 
covering the Hauptmann trial. 

All of her writings have a strong philosophical tinge. She is a 
thinker, rather than a superficial reporter, and her work has rich 
texture. She receives hundreds of letters from women of widely dif- 
fering ages and interests, who write to her for counsel on their 
problems. Those she values most are the letters from women who 
share her own conviction that marriage for love is the best and most 
permanent feminine destiny. 

She has been felicitous in her own marriage after stormy begin- 
nings. She is the wife of Sidney Walter Dean, the editor who gave 
her her first job in Boston. They live deep in the country with 
the three stepchildren she has brought up. Miss Marshall swims, 
reads, writes constantly. They have the ocean lapping at their 
front porch and pines and wild flowers at their back door. But she 
hankers after the food, the flowers, the salty Yankees of south- 
eastern New Hampshire where she grew up. Some day she and her 
husband intend to go back there, buy an island, sail about in a cabin 
cruiser and let the days slip by. 



Chapter IX 

THE LADIES TRAVEL 


N OW THAT ISN’T THE WAY TO DO IT,” ROARED H. G. WELLS TO 

Zoe Beckley when she called on him in his London home 
to get him to write a history of women for a magazine. 
“Let me show you. Come back here and I’ll teach you how to ap- 
proach me. 

“Bang, bang, bang. That’s you knocking on the door. I open it 
and say, ‘Why, how do you do?’ Then you say, ‘I’m well, how are 
you, Mr. Wells, and what are you working on?’ Then I say, ‘I have 
just finished a fantastic Utopian romance— would you like to see 
it?’ Then you say, ‘Yes, indeed, I would, and I should like to buy it 
for my magazine.’ ” 

Mr. Wells threw himself on the sofa and roared with laughter. 
He explained that he never wrote to order and that therefore Miss 
Beckley must let him dictate a cablegram to her magazine. It began: 
“Mr. Wells absolutely refuses to write at any price the work you 
suggest, but he has at present for your consideration . . .” The 
message ran to fifty words. Miss Beckley urged him to omit the 
Mister, the absolutely and the but, and thereby save money. 

“No!” he shouted. “The Mister is for respect, the absolutely is to 
avoid argument, and the rest of it is my philanthropic willingness to 
give them the first chance to use my latest story. Change nothing.” 

Mr. Wells then made tea for Miss Beckley and showed her how 
that should be done, too. They chatted for hours. She found him a 
great wag. No newspaper woman ever has left Mr. Wells empty- 
handed. He makes copy as he breathes and enjoys talking about 
himself and the universe. 

Authors frequently furnish newspaper women with good copy. 
John Galsworthy was the exception. He was so tongue-tied when he 
came to America that Elizabeth Eskey, of the World , wrote an 
amusing story based solely on his “ah’s” and “hm’s.” 

Miss Beckley managed to get to George Bernard Shaw once at 
his home in Adelphi Terrace and found him in an amiable mood. 
After that she tried for an interview every time she was in London. 



98 Ladies of the Press 

She framed the last postcard she got from him. It read: “I am, as 
you see, out of reach in the country, so cannot see you. But here is 
your postcard. Bon voyage. G.B.S.” 

Miss Beckley was already a seasoned interviewer when she called 
on Mr. Wells. She had crossed the Atlantic on the trail of news a 
number of times, and had tackled the great, the near-great, the ab- 
surd, the pathetic, the brave and the ignoble. It was she who 
launched both Queen Marie and Coue on America. Few newspaper 
women have had careers as exciting as Miss Beckley’s. She has al- 
ways been in the thick of things, for she is both clever and lucky 
at her work. 

“You had better get out of newspaper work before your imperti- 
nence gets you into difficulties,” Anne Morgan once told her, when 
Miss Beckley asked her why she had never married. Ida M. Tarbell, 
a former newspaper woman herself, thanked her for asking the same 
question, saying she had always vaguely wondered why she had not 
married, and welcomed the chance to think it through to a con- 
clusion. May Sinclair told her: “I have never married because an 
intellectual woman is always a lonely woman. Only inferior men 
care for a woman such as I— and I don’t like inferior men. So I have 
to remain single.” 

Miss Beckley is one of the few newspaper women who are native 
New Yorkers. She was bom in an old house on West Eighth Street. 
Her New England mother had had spirit enough to break away from 
the family fold and teach French in a Young Ladies Seminary in 
Richmond, Virginia. There she met Zoe’s father, who sang in the 
same church choir and was a handsome member of the old Rich- 
mond Blues, a real Southerner at heart— couldn’t make money, 
couldn’t think of his daughters doing anything to earn a pair of 
party gloves or help buy the beef for Sunday’s dinner. 

He had lost everything after the Civil War and so he moved to 
New York, where Zoe was born. Her layette consisted of two 
print dresses and two pairs of worsted bootees her mother had 
knitted. Her aunt Molly named her Zoe after a child she had met 
once in a Pullman. She impressed the fact on Zoe that her name was 
Greek for life, and that she must never forget to put the dots over 
the “e,” so as to keep people from pronouncing it Zo. Zoe always 
remembered about the dots but few others did. 

Aunt Molly, who was a crack stenographer at a time when the 
mere sight of a woman worker in the Wall Street district nearly 
caused a riot, taught Zoe to typewrite. Propped on Webster’s dic- 
tionary and two pillows, she punched out letters to her dear Mamma 
and dear Papa at the age of’ four. A dozen years later she capi- 
talized this accomplishment by snatching at a job in a mail order 



The Ladies Travel 99 

house, unknown to her father. She could type fast and spell. Her 
salary was $7 a week. But her father soon found out and was deeply 
hurt. He took her into his own office as a compromise, but after the 
rent was paid there was nothing left for Zoe. So she struck out again. 
She worked in factories and offices of every sort. She batted the 
typewriter for an employment agency, a detective, a public stenog- 
rapher, an editor, a wholesale butcher, a broker and a deaf old 
gentleman who was writing a book on finance. 

Her Aunt Molly made her go to a night school and add shorthand 
to typewriting. After this her pay check fattened. She earned and 
saved, lived at home and went three times to Europe on a shoestring, 
for she was born with a mania for travel. She married the man who 
lived next door, but he died seventeen months later of typhoid- 
pneumonia. Later she married Joseph Gollomb, the author. 

She worked at anything and everything. She painted dinner cards, 
photographs, frames and book-plates in the knickknack days. She 
copied manuscripts. She took stenographic jobs and finally she met 
Helen Rowland, who laughed heartily at what she told her about 
her occupations. One day Miss Rowland urged her to try news- 
paper work. Such a mad thought never had entered Zoe’s head. But 
the columnist insisted that she should try a few paragraphs. She 
gave her a letter to Richard J. Spillane, then Sunday editor of the 
venerable and now forgotten Press. After his spectacular work on 
the Galveston flood he had come north and entered the New York 
field. He bought three of Miss Beckley’s pieces for fillers and her first 
newspaper earnings amounted to $2.65. She kept on doing her work 
as secretary to James R. Sheffield, then a prominent attorney and 
later ambassador to Mexico. She earned $22 a week and used all her 
spare time doing elegantly typed pieces for the Press. 

Mr. Spillane assigned her to interview the circus people one Sat- 
urday afternoon but she had a row with the Sheffield office clerk, 
who objected to her taking the half-holiday. So she blithely handed 
in her resignation and bolted for Madison Square Garden. On Mon- 
day she sought Mr. Spillane and asked him for a job. 

“I can’t hire you,” he said. “Got no money. You couldn’t make a 
living writing anyhow. Go back to your job and don’t be a damn 
fool.” 

But Miss Beckley now knew what she wanted and wouldn’t be 
put off. She hired a typewriter, got the copy boy to rig up an elec- 
tric light and sat in the back of the city room where dirt from the 
stereotyping room sifted all over her. She beat out stories as if her 
life depended on it. Mr. Spillane took all he could and was kind to 
her. He was the most gifted profanity-slinger Miss Beckley ever 
came across in a newspaper office. Her space earnings brought her 



IOO 


Ladies of the Press 

in from $26 to $50 a week. The paper had a double page featuring 
“Little Stories of Manhattan” and she wrote practically all of these 
after the first few attempts. 

Then Mr. Spillane fell ill and was away from the office. Miss 
Beckley did not fare so well with the assistant editor. Walking up 
and down Broadway and wondering what she should do she stopped 
at Fulton Street and stared at the Mail and Express building. “That’s 
a paper,” she thought. “I’ll go in and ask.” 

“Where do I find the editor?” she asked the elevator boy. 

“Which one?” he demanded, logically enough. 

“The biggest one,” said Miss Beckley. 

“Aw, Mr. Stoddard’s the biggest. He’s over six feet. Try him.” 

So Miss Beckley got in to see Henry L. Stoddard, the publisher. 
Her zeal seemed to amuse him. He turned her over to T. E. Niles, the 
managing editor, who handed her a clipping and said, “Do a feature 
on that.” Not having the remotest idea what a feature might be, and 
fearing to ask Mr. Niles, Miss Beckley stopped a red-headed youth on 
her way out and asked him. He turned out to be Fred Knowles. 
His face was a picture as he said, “A feature, my poor woman, is a 
story that isn’t news but is based on news. Keep it short, make it 
interesting and don’t begin with ‘the.’ ” 

The interview was with Mrs. Martin Littleton, who had made a 
speech in place of her husband when he became ill suddenly. This 
was during the suffrage period. After telling Miss Beckley how she 
had come to substitute for her husband, she added, “But don’t put 
anything about all this in the paper.” Miss Beckley felt completely 
sunk. This was her first assignment and things seemed to be going 
wrong. Then Mr. Littleton marched in and sized up the situation. 

“Go on, Peggy, do some shopping,” he said. “I’ll attend to this 
girl. I know what a newspaper wants.” 

He gave Miss Beckley a fine story. From that time on she was 
always lucky about getting stories and landing in places at the right 
moment. It’s a special gift in the reporter that the wise editor 
should see a mile away and cherish. 

She worked hard, had good health, contributed an enormous 
amount of energy and enthusiasm to what she was doing, had initia- 
tive and resource, was facile with words. Robert E. MacAlamey, 
who was then on the Mail, urged her not to stay too long in news- 
paper work. A year’s enough, he told her. But she stayed and never 
was sorry. Her days were filled with variety, excitement, achieve- 
ment. 

Her first big assignment came to her quite by accident. Mr. 
Stoddard was passing her desk one day. “Well, young lady, what are 
you doing?” he asked. 



The Ladies Travel ioi 

“I’m writing a dull piece for your paper while you are about to 
board a special train with a picked crew of writers bound for the 
Bull Moose Convention in Chicago,” she said a little querulously. “It 
must be great to be a Political Power.” 

Mr. Stoddard went into his office and twenty minutes later came 
back. “It’s ten minutes past one. Could you be at Grand Central by 
2.30 to get aboard that special?” 

Miss Beckley was alarmed over the outcome of her levity. In spite 
of all the difficult things she has done, she is not yet panic proof. 
She can still get bumpy knees at a difficult moment. But George 
Henry Payne, political feature writer for the Mail , came to her 
rescue. He dragged her into one of the Pullman rooms, where a type- 
writer and a pile of copy paper rested on the table, and gave her a 
lecture. “Think of these delegates you’re so concerned about,” he 
said, “as being utterly dependent upon you. You’re their vehicle of 
expression and without you they’d be sunk. Ask the old dames a 
question— any question— and they’ll talk their heads off. Get the one 
best idea for your lead, then throw in a little palaver of your own 
for color, then elaborate on what they say, if anything, and pull 
the whole thing together at the end. And there you are. Now write 
800 words and I’ll show you how to put it on the wire at Buffalo.” 

Miss Beckley’s convention stories came through without a hitch. 
She had her first taste of real newspaper excitement. When she got 
back she dug in at $30 a week. She turned out four and five stories 
for one issue, some signed, others not. But she got many raises and 
survived five city editors. By 1917 she was tired of doing war stories 
and she asked Dr. Edward A. Rumely, editor of the Mail, to let her 
go on a tour of the country. She wanted nothing but her railroad 
fare. V. V. McNitt, who later founded the McNaught Syndicate, for 
which she now writes a daily column, was then with the Mail. He 
routed her through thirty-seven cities from New York to San Fran- 
cisco, and she interviewed everybody along the way who seemed to 
be worth while. 

When she got back, she found the Mail greatly changed. The 
old staff had melted away. There were new faces everywhere. Miss 
Beckley learned that $20 had been lopped off her $80 a week salary. 
She decided to leave and work on her own. She did syndicate work 
for NEA and NANA and some magazine features. Then the 
Evening World offered her a three-day-a-week job to alternate 
with Nixola Greeley-Smith. This went on up to the time of Nixola’s 
death. Miss Beckley stayed with the World for some time longer, 
then out of a clear sky she got an assignment from a magazine to 
interview Sir Oliver Lodge. That was in the summer of 19 19. 

She stayed in Europe for ten months, writing a serial and doing 



102 Ladies of the Press 

syndicate stories from Central Europe on the relief work for chil- 
dren. She traveled all over the Continent, saw annihilating things, 
and cared less for this than for anything she ever did. She was in 
Paris when she got a cablegram from NEA asking her to find the 
Kaiser in Holland and interview him. She showed the message to 
Henry Howe and asked him what she should do. He gave her a letter 
to Jan Bruna, editor of the Nieuwe Courant of The Hague, and 
thither she posted. Bruna laughed his head off and she was leaving 
his office in a depressed state of mind when he called her back. 

“Look here, have you got any money to spend?” he asked. 

“My message said to spare no expense.” 

So she hired a car and on Sunday they both went to Amerongen 
where the Kaiser then was, in the castle of the Bentincks. The 
guards brushed them off and threatened to take away Miss Beck- 
ley’s camera. They prowled about but failed to pick up anything on 
the Kaiser. They went to an inn for coffee and liqueurs and Bruna 
talked to everyone in sight. The waiter pointed to the houses oppo- 
site, where the crack reporters of Europe and America had put up 
for three months, hunting the All-Highest in vain, and finally had 
gone their ways. 

“Why doesn’t the lady go to Doom where the Emperor is re- 
modeling his castle and soon will live?” he asked. “She might chance 
on something.” 

So they drove to Doom and found the lovely old castle, the 
chapel, the moat, the wooded grounds, the ancient bridge, but no 
Kaiser. Her friend Bruna spied a good burgher and his vrouw 
having coffee in their little garden adjoining the royal grounds. 

“Oh, yes,” said Vrouw Van Zetten casually, “the journalist 
lady can see the Emperor if she cares to . . 

She proceeded to give minute instructions as to where Miss 
Beckley should stand and wait any fine morning for the Emperor 
to show up at ten o’clock. She was to watch for the green car. She 
was to be sure to stand on the highway, not on private ground. 

Miss Beckley sent Bruna back to The Hague and returned alone 
to the famous little Pabst Hotel at Doom. She carried out the 
vrowvfs directions precisely, not dreaming that she would actually 
get a sight of Wilhelm or have a chance to take his picture. But 
everything happened as the Dutch woman had predicted. She got 
three pictures— including a fine close-up of the Kaiser with his 
first wife. Empress Augusta Victoria. Then the state police, riding 
on bicycles, pounced on her. The chief of police called later on 
Miss Beckley at the little inn, scrutinized her passport, asked her 
numerous questions and ran her out of town. But not until she had 
seen the Kaiser twice again. Vrouw Van Zetten told her that if she 



The Ladies Travel 103 

bowed to him as he passed in his car he would lift his hat. Next day 
she tried it and he did. His hair was thick, white and wavy. She 
thought that he looked like a tired old wolf in a cage at the Zoo. 

Miss Beckley was detained at The Hague until her ten-day visa 
had expired. The officials refused to renew it and they made her skip 
straight back to Paris. The chief of police was courteous but said 
she had “disturbed the Emperor and blown a lot of dust down the 
road” and must not stay in Holland any longer. So, although she 
did not get her interview with the Kaiser, she got excellent pictures 
and such an entertaining story about him that NEA offered her a 
job. This was in 1920. A year later, when Mr. Stoddard resumed 
ownership of the Mail, he urged her to return. She had been so 
fond of the paper that she did not hesitate. She was to work only 
three days a week and receive $125 for her labors, the same salary 
that she was getting from NEA. 

When she noticed a paragraph on an obscure chemist in France 
named Coue who was curing people of their ills by auto-suggestion 
she showed it to Mr. Niles, who was interested at once and sent her 
to Nancy to watch Coue at work in his clinic there. She followed 
him to Paris and accompanied him back to America. She sent stories 
daily by wireless from the Majestic and stuck with him throughout 
his American tour. 

One night in the spring of 1922, Mr. Stoddard thought of send- 
ing her to England to come back with Lady Astor on her first trip 
to America after taking her seat in the House of Commons. He tele- 
phoned Miss Beckley’s home but she was out of town. It was not 
until the following Monday, when she came into the office for her 
half-week, that he casually mentioned the assignment. “But of course 
it’s too late now,” he added. 

Miss Beckley was disappointed. She dragged uptown to interview 
Dame Clara Butt and found her surrounded by luggage, all piled 
up for sailing. It was labeled S.S. Mauretania. The ship was due to 
leave next day at noon. Miss Beckley rushed from the suite, tele- 
phoned to Mr. Stoddard, begged him to let her try to make the 
Mauretania , which was sailing eastward as an oil-burner for the 
first time and would no doubt break her own record. She got a re- 
newal visa for her old passport by telephoning to Washington, 
snatched her laundiy from the hands of the ironer, packed a bag, and 
had Harry Acton, who was then on the Mail , get her accommoda- 
tions. She finally made the gangplank with only eight minutes to 
spare. 

Lady Astor made no attempt to avoid publicity. Miss Beckley 
was able to wireless exclusive stories every day, which gave her a 
considerable start on the newspaper women who swarmed aboard at 



104 Ladies of the Press 

Quarantine. She watched her do her gym work-out and talked to 
her at length. By the time the ship docked Lady Astor’s opinions 
on all sorts of topics had appeared in the Mail. It was a bright piece 
of journalism. 

Miss Beckley went over to the T elegram with the sale of the Mail 
but left soon afterwards to join Famous Features Syndicate, which 
was new and wanted something for an opening splash. She suggested 
Marie of Rumania, who had not yet become the publicity queen. 
The suggestion was made in a facetious vein but she was taken up 
seriously. She composed an urgent cablegram and got a leisurely an- 
swer, suggesting that she come to Rumania and see the Queen. The 
date set was for eleven days ahead. In no time at all Miss Beckley was 
on the Mauretania again, tapping out her regular column with one 
hand and holding on to a rocking berth with the other. For she is 
adept at writing under strange conditions. She has turned out copy 
in Pullmans, on ships, in airplanes, in borrowed offices, in homes 
where she was a guest, in royal palaces, in a hospital bed, in odd inns 
all over Europe— every where, in fact, except on a curbstone with her 
feet in the gutter. 

She stopped off in England and got a letter from Lady Astor to 
pave the way with Queen Marie. But no introductions were needed. 
The Queen received her enthusiastically. Before being ushered in to 
her presence she got precise instructions about her behavior. She 
was not to wear a coat or hat, she was not to turn her back and she 
was to kiss the Queen’s hand. Miss Beckley promptly forgot all the 
royal etiquette and she and Queen Marie hit it off at once. 

She was not there for an interview. She wanted to get a series of 
articles signed by the Queen for her syndicate. Miss Beckley had 
a bad moment when she was asked how much she would pay for the 
stories. She had no idea what to offer. She did not want to run her 
syndicate into an extravagant figure. On the other hand, she was 
afraid the Queen might sheer off if the price named were not suffi- 
ciently high. So she added up her own and Helen Rowland’s weekly 
salary, divided the total into two and offered the Queen this sum 
for each article. 

It was a ticklish moment. She had no idea how Marie would take it. 
The Queen went on placidly knitting a red cap for the gardener’s 
child. 

“You know, I think that is rather decent,” she said. 

After this Miss Beckley was more or less in constant attendance 
while the Queen wrote the articles. She strolled with her in her rose 
garden and sat with her in her boudoir— a picturesque room with 
rough rafters into which gofd powder had been rubbed, some of 
it by the Queen herself. Miss Beckley traveled in state with her to 



The Ladies Travel 105 

Belgrade. Marie turned out to be a human gold mine of copy, spilling 
her confidences with startling abandon. But she wrote her own ar- 
ticles, except for a little help on English. Three times Miss Beckley 
crossed the Atlantic to visit her. She regards these trips as the most 
interesting part of her newspaper career. To this day she hears from 
the Queen. Although it was she who started the publicity that rolled 
up to such proportions on her visit to this country in 1926, she 
never thought that Marie should have made the expedition, and was 
not surprised when it turned into something of a circus. 

Calvin Coolidge was the least responsive subject Miss Beckley 
ever tackled. After she had given him up completely, frozen out 
by his persistent silence, he turned hospitable and he told her a 
funny story. She discovered then that he was afraid of women 
reporters. When she stayed as a guest at his house, he was almost 
genial with her. 

Miss Beckley figured once that she had written between four and 
five thousand interviews with every sort of human being during her 
years on the Mail alone. She has had as varied experience as any 
newspaper woman could hope for, and has traveled more than most 
of them ever get a chance to do in their professional capacity. She 
is of medium height, dark and vivacious. She lives deep in Con- 
necticut, writes her column at home, enjoys her work to the full, 
has seen an extraordinary number of places, persons and things. She 
has a lively sense of humor, an optimistic outlook on life. 

Another newspaper woman who has crossed the Atlantic more 
than once in quest of news is Miriam Teichner, who sailed from 
Hoboken on the Peace Ship on December 4, 1915, and thereafter 
lived through Alice in Wonderland days of nonsense, bravado and 
downright lunacy. There were more than sixty reporters aboard and 
almost as many students, taken along to be educated in the ways of 
peace. There were a few sincere men and women who went be- 
cause they had faith in Mr. Ford’s idea. The rest of the passengers 
were assorted cranks of one kind or another. 

It all made good copy for Miss Teichner, who was covering the 
story for the Globe in New York and the News in Detroit. There 
were ructions and alarms from the moment the Oscar Second sailed. 
The Peace Party split wide open and divided into two warring fac- 
tions before they had been aboard twenty-four hours. The reporters 
were unpopular with everyone, because they insisted on knowing 
and writing the truth. Rosika Schwimmer charged them with being 
in the pay of armament manufacturers and said in a speech that they 
were “serpents in the bosom of the expedition.” This inspired a verse 
which the correspondents chanted lugubriously to the tune of Bee- 



io 6 Ladies of the Press 

thoven’s Funeral March when they made merry at their New Year’s 
party in Copenhagen: 

We have come from Sweden , 

Snakes in Schwimmer's Eden . 

On to the morgue , 

That's the only place for us. 

Miss Teichner saw little of Henry Ford, nor did anyone else. He 
never received the press and he gave every appearance of regretting 
the expedition before it was well under way. When he appeared 
among the fanatical crowd on board he seemed diffident, withdrawn, 
his face half shrewd, half badgered. He left the ship before they 
reached Stockholm. The announcement that he and Dean S. S. 
Marquis, the Detroit clergyman who had accompanied him, were on 
their way home, was made to the reporters by Louis Lochner at a 
press conference called some time after midnight on a freezing train 
in the heart of Sweden. 

Miss Teichner found that everything about the expedition was 
half mad, badly thought out, doomed to failure from the start, but 
she believed the dark, thick-spectacled Rosika to be sincere. They 
made crazy progress from Hoboken to Christiania, from Christiania 
to Stockholm, from Stockholm to Copenhagen, from Copenhagen 
across the Baltic and then, carefully guarded by German soldiers, 
across war-time Germany to The Hague, and home from Rotterdam. 

The entire expedition had a fantastic quality for the press. There 
were entertainments, public meetings and innumerable speeches in 
every place they visited. But few of the important officials of any 
country visited turned out for them. Nothing but ridicule ever came 
of the Oscar Second . The only passengers who got anything out of 
it were the press, and they got good copy and merry laughter. Soon 
after Miss Teichner returned she was sent on a second quixotic ex- 
pedition— this time the Hughes train. 

These were lively newspaper days. Zest and excitement were in 
the air. She moved rapidly from one story to another. She made a 
study of conditions among the immigrants on Ellis Island. Europeans 
were still pouring into the country and the shawl and sabot line was 
long and picturesque. Miss Teichner investigated New York’s flop- 
houses and breadlines. She spent a night in the warden’s office at 
Sing Sing with a family group that had come to say good-by to a 
man who was due to be electrocuted in the morning. His sentence 
was commuted just before dawn. 

She went behind the scenes at the Metropolitan with Bill Guard 
to interview Caruso, glittering in the golden robes and bronze beard 
of Meyerbeer’s “Prophet ” In a spangled gown of peacock velvet 



The Ladies Travel 107 

and a gold crown she sat in a howdah and rode an elephant in the 
circus at Madison Square Garden because her city editor had said 
to her, “Go get a job with the circus for a day.” Dexter Fellows had 
arranged it. 

She interviewed most of the stage, screen and opera stars of the 
period. She talked to criminals in the Tombs and Anzac soldiers 
on their way to war. She held the tail of a Hippodrome lion while 
he was being operated on— well roped— for an abscessed tooth. She 
interviewed celebrities of all kinds, and down-and-outers. For sev- 
eral years she did the verses that appeared on the editorial page of 
the Globe . Then Miss Teichner took a leave of absence from her 
paper for a few months to do publicity for the New York State 
Woman’s Suffrage party in its campaign for the state amendment. 
She was offered the job on the strength of a satirical story she wrote 
about anti-suffrage headquarters. 

When the armistice came she wanted to go abroad again. By the 
spring of 1919 she was working in a Jewish Welfare Board hut at 
Camp Covington, an embarkation camp outside Marseilles. The 
climate was trying. It was never cool. The blue satin sky was cloud- 
less. The sirocco blew in a burning blast from Africa; the food was 
bad; she had no regular hours. She came down with rheumatic 
fever and was taken back to Paris. When she got home she still 
had a crippled arm. She went back to Detroit to convalesce, and 
before long she was back on the staff of the News, the paper on 
which she started. 

In 1921 she was sent to Germany and she stayed for eighteen 
months. She traveled all over the country and was in Berlin during 
a general strike in mid-winter, when for a week there was no light, 
no heat, and the German housemaids stood for hours in the freezing 
streets, waiting for their turn at the hydrant to get buckets of water 
to drag up innumerable flights of stairs. Miss Teichner wrote human 
interest stories about post-war conditions as they affected the man 
in the street and his wife and children. She went to Oberammergau 
for the first production of the Passion Play after the war, and in- 
terviewed Anton Lang and the other members of the cast. Before 
returning home she visited Vienna, Budapest, Switzerland and 
France. 

Then came a break in her newspaper career. She was very ill 
after she returned to America. She has never been entirely well 
since. During the years of invalidism she did publicity, fiction, inter- 
views and verse. Then she went to work on the Evening World. 
Again Miriam Teichner’s intelligent reporting appeared regularly 
in the columns of a New York daily and she thought she was 
settled for life under the Pulitzer gold dome. But the paper was 



10S Ladies of the Ft ess 

sold. Nearly three thousand men and women were thrown out of 
work. The Globe , too, had died of sale and amalgamation. 

Miss Teichner’s newspaper career started in Detroit, where she 
did verse, paragraphs and editorial comment for the News before 
being taken on the city staff. E. G. Pipp, her managing editor, 
initiated her with two pieces of advice. One was: “To learn to write, 
you need only four things— the Bible, Shakespeare, the Saturday 
Evening Post and the News .” The other was: “Get things right . 
Walk a mile, if you have to, to find out a man’s middle initial, but 
get it, and get it right.” 

Miss Teichner had intended to be a nurse but newspaper work 
suited her so well that she was never able to understand why she 
should be paid for her efforts. Every day seemed to her to be high 
adventure. She never walked into the noisy city room without an 
actual physical quickening. She is one of the many infatuated news- 
paper women who think their profession the most dazzling in the 
world. She hopes that when she dies the words u She was a good 
newspaper woman ” will be written on her tomb. 



[ i°9 1 


Chapter X 

THE CRUSADING SPIRIT 

R heta Childe Dorr walked into the city room of the New 
York Mail one day in 1917 and found the men on the staff 
hovering over the ticker tape. At once she detected the sup- 
pressed excitement that to the initiated implies news. She leaned over 
to see for herself what was stirring. The Czar had abdicated. Russia 
was a republic. 

Mrs. Dorr clutched the arm of the city editor. Tm going to 
Russia,” she exclaimed. 

No one looked surprised. No one said she couldn’t go, as some- 
one undoubtedly would have done when she first struggled into 
journalism in the late nineties, fighting her way by inches. In 1898 
she was told by a baby-faced young man at the Sun office that his 
paper had no women on the staff and never expected to have any. 
At the Post an editor assured her that he would rather die than 
help a woman to get a job in such an accursed business. Park Row 
was then practically a masculine monopoly. 

But by 1917 no one questioned Mrs. Dorr’s right to go to Russia 
and report the Revolution if that was what she wanted to do. She 
had shown that she could handle any sort of news story and open 
doors often closed to men. So she sailed for Russia in a Swedish 
steamer, with eleven bearded Norwegian captains whose vessels had 
been sunk by U boats. She had been in Russia twice before. She was 
a student of the French Revolution and she thought that nothing 
could be more thrilling than to write about a nation in the throes of 
revolt. 

Mrs. Dorr first ran into excitement in Finland, where she was 
held up while all her medicines and toilet articles were examined. 
She was forced to demonstrate the harmlessness of her belongings, 
at the expense of her stomach. She took aspirin, soda mints, quinine, 
bromide, epsom salts, strychnine tablets, aromatic spirits of am- 
monia and wound up with a swig of cologne. She compromised on 
the iodine by smearing some on her wrist. 

“There,” she said. “Satisfied?” 



no Ladies of the Press 

The officials were practically persuaded that she was not carrying 
explosives and she went on her way with her medicine kit. When 
she arrived at her destination she employed a young Russian girl to 
act as interpreter. She wandered through the streets, parks and fac- 
tories and watched the councils of the Soviet. To her the Com- 
munists seemed lunatics. She saw the Paris of 1792 all over again— 
on one side of the legislative chamber the Lafayettes and Mirabeaus; 
on the other the Dantons, Marats and Robespierres, the red zealots 
ablaze with the frenzy of destruction. 

She visited the Battalion of Death and struck up a friendship with 
Marie Skridlova, a slim girl in her twenties who was adjutant of the 
regiment. 

“If you girls ever go to the front I am going with you,” said 
Mrs. Dorr. 

Before Botchkereva, the big peasant woman who commanded the 
Battalion of Death and had previously fought in a men’s regiment, 
had time to get a permit for her, they moved off to war without 
giving her warning. Mrs. Dorr saw their crimson-tipped lances go 
by; heard the clatter of a thousand Cossacks escorting them on 
their way. 

She rushed from one official to another but got no aid. So she 
started off without a permit, two dollars in her pocket, a briefcase 
under her arm. At the station in Warsaw she found the regiment in 
a preliminary melee with Bolshevik soldiers bent on keeping them 
from leaving. Her friend, Skridlova, gave her a nurse’s coif and 
labeled her a sestra. She became part of the regiment. It took them 
two days and nights to reach the Dvinsk front. Then they marched 
into a camp where 100,000 soldiers were stationed. Mrs. Dorr slept 
on a rough plank bed without blankets. For nine days she watched 
them drill and lived with them under camp rules. 

At the end of that time they were ordered to the front. She re- 
turned to Petrograd and was soon in the thick of the July Revolu- 
tion. The Battalion of Death went into action at once. Half the 
women were killed or wounded. She never heard of Skridlova again, 
but she saw Botchkereva when she passed through the United States 
a year or two later. 

Mrs. Dorr went to the Convent of Mary and Martha in Moscow 
to talk to the Grand Duchess Serge, sister of the Czarina. She found 
her in an old-world setting of lilac bushes and mignonette, with 
calm-faced nuns in pale gray habits raking up leaves while the revo- 
lution raged nearby. They talked for an hour. The Grand Duchess 
wanted to know about the Battalion of Death. Mrs. Dorr carried 
away with her an impression of peace and beauty. She was to re- 



Ill 


The Crusading Spirit 

member it vividly when she read later of her death— thrown down 
an abandoned mine shaft in Siberia, bombs flung on her for flowers. 

She also met Anna Alexandrovna Virubova, for years the inti- 
mate of the Czar and Czarina and a member of Rasputin’s innermost 
circle. Later Mrs. Dorr was to write a striking story about the Rus- 
sian summer night on which she listened to this pale woman on 
crutches, her face dim with peril and grief, her blue eyes that had 
seen so much evil washed pure as those of a child, telling of her life 
with the Imperial family, the chaos of the Revolution, the death 
of Rasputin. Years later they met again and Mrs. Dorr helped Mme. 
Virubova write her memoirs. They worked together in a small 
German hotel, the Czar’s letters strewn around them, Virubova talk- 
ing and talking, recreating the atmosphere of vice, cruelty and su- 
perstition in which she had moved. 

Mrs. Dorr left Russia in September, 1917. On her return she sat 
at her typewriter in a small office in the Mail and wrote for five 
weeks, turning out thousands of words, all from memory. She had 
come out of Russia without a single note. She lost herself in her 
surroundings and when she finished for the day, she was always 
astonished to see from the windows the New York skyline instead 
of the roofs of Petrograd. She lived in a dream until she had trans- 
lated her experiences into copy. Her stories ran on the front page of 
the Mail for weeks. They were published later in a book called Inside 
the Russian Revolution . The Reds pounced on her at once. Louise 
Bryant, another able correspondent, challenged her to debate. But 
Mrs. Dorr refused to take up the challenge. She lectured and wrote, 
and appeared at times in the Mail office in riding breeches and mili- 
tary coat, the war correspondent’s uniform. 

She went abroad again in December and toured the munitions fac- 
tories of Britain. She interviewed Lord Northcliffe and carried away 
an unforgettable picture of his massive head outlined against a back- 
ground of yellow narcissi. On that occasion he accurately predicted 
for her the appointment of Foch to the supreme command. 

Like all the other women who tried to do war correspondence in 
France, Mrs. Dorr found herself tangled and defeated by red tape. 
General Pershing allowed her to go through the lines as far as the 
tiny village where the Americans were taking over their first sector. 
Her son, Julian, who later entered the diplomatic service, was 
wounded twice. Years later, when he was a consul in Italy and 
Mussolini arrived in Naples on his conquering way to Rome, Mrs. 
Dorr told her son that she would have to see hostilities through. 
Julian threw up his hands and exclaimed, “My God! If there’s a 
war Mother joins it.” 

For Mrs. Dorr’s whole life has been patterned in excitement, dat- 



1 1 2 


Ladies of the Press 

in g back to the day she sneaked out of her home in Lincoln, Ne- 
braska, at the age of twelve, to listen to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and 
Susan B. Anthony lecture on women’s rights after her father had 
forbidden her to attend the meeting. During her adolescence she 
spent long hours in the library, lapping up history and romance. She 
went to Nebraska State University but was unpopular with her class- 
mates, for she was a strong individualist. Later she worked in a post 
office and watched life flow by at the general delivery window. She 
knew Walt Mason, who was then on the editorial staff of the Ne- 
braska State Journal He asked to see some of her writings. He called 
her Sappho and said she had a literary future ahead of her. But all 
she wanted was to play Nora of the DoWs House. 

In 1890 she traveled East and first saw the New York skyline 
from the forward deck of a Jersey City ferry boat. It was lower 
then and less brilliantly lighted, but it seemed an enchanted scene 
to the eager girl from the West. She lived at the Art Students’ 
League and discovered a new world. But this time she had not come 
to stay. Two years later she married John Pixley Dorr, twenty 
years her senior, and in the spring of 1893 they moved to Seattle, 
where the first years of their married life were spent and their 
son Julian was bom. 

Mrs. Dorr’s mind was foraging now for fresh material. She was 
filled with the consuming fires of discontent. She scrapped Jane 
Austen; read the modems. She argued endlessly with her husband, 
for she believed that men and women should live on absolutely equal 
terms. She interviewed the prospectors who sailed into Seattle with 
treasure from the North, and sent her stories to New York. She 
went as far as the White Pass and watched the dog teams start on 
their journey into the wilds. 

Her husband could not understand her strange interests. He 
thought that women should not budge from the nursery and fireside. 
So she left him and returned to New York in 1898 with $500, a two- 
year-old child, a marriage adrift. The Sun printed some of her work 
but she could not get steady employment. For three years she ped- 
dled her wares on space. She never received a word of praise or 
encouragement, nor was she able to see anyone in authority. She got 
tired of supercilious young men who came out to snub her, repre- 
senting the poobah inside, for she felt, with absolute justice, that she 
could write. 

At last the American Press Association, one of the earliest syndi- 
cates, took a weekly column of fashion notes for boiler plate. And 
a photographic concern, seeing that she had fresh ideas, gave her a 
photographer to go about 1 with her. Together they filled an occa- 
sional Sunday page. In the meantime Mrs. Dorr pawned everything 



The Crusading Spirit 113 

that she had— down to the last of her silver spoons and even her en- 
gagement ring. Things did not look up for her until she was assigned 
to get pictures of Theodore Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, when he was 
officially notified of his appointment as vice-president. 

Colonel Roosevelt was in an ill humor at the time. He was an- 
noyed because his wife and children had been pestered by camera 
men, so he gave orders that none was to be allowed on the premises 
on the day of the notification. Mrs. Dorr was promised a bonus of 
$25 if she could persuade the Colonel to pose. She went to Sagamore 
Hill, wearing her last good linen dress. She got to Colonel Roosevelt, 
but as soon as she mentioned photographs, the bulldog look flashed. 
She stood her ground and argued with him for ten minutes. Then 
he said: 

“Well, Mrs. Dorr, if you will boss the job, and see that not a 
man points his camera except at me and the notification committee, 
I will let them in. Is that fair?” 

“It’s fair,” Mrs. Dorr conceded. “And I shall be responsible.” 

So a score of camera men were admitted on the strength of this 
pact, the pictures were taken, and the family was let alone, although 
the children overran the porch and grounds. By the time it was all 
over, Colonel Roosevelt was in high good humor. He invited the 
photographers to stay for luncheon and led Mrs. Dorr into the 
dining-room on his arm. 

After this she sold copy regularly to the woman’s page of the 
Tribune and to the Post . One day Hammond Lamont, managing 
editor of the Post , invited her to join the staff to cover women’s 
activities. The business office had been complaining bitterly that 
women did not read the paper and that the advertisers were aware 
of this significant fact. But before committing himself, Mr. Lamont 
questioned Mrs. Dorr about her educational qualifications and de- 
grees. 

“I haven’t any,” she told him candidly. 

The Post at the time was overrun with scholars. They lurked in 
every comer. Post reporters, Mr. Lamont explained, should be of 
good breeding and education because often they got in where the 
garden variety of reporter was barred. And they had to be of im- 
peccable character. 

Mrs. Dorr noticed a picture of Alexander Hamilton hanging over 
Mr. Lamont’s desk. 

“It gives me a certain sense of superiority to think that I am to 
have a job that Alexander Hamilton couldn’t possibly have aspired 
to,” she remarked impudently. 

Mr. Lamont looked slightly dazed but the transaction went 
through. She got $25 a week and Oswald Garrison Villard told her 



1 14 Ladies of the Press 

'later on that he never would pay her more, for the simple reason 
that she was a “female,” and he could employ all the females he 
wanted for $25 or less. By this time a girl had chiseled her way onto 
the Sun staff but she was not permitted to enter the city room. She 
got her assignments and wrote her copy in an office boy’s nook. 

Mrs. Dorr now plunged into journalism with a vengeance. She 
did women’s clubs, fashions and housekeeping in a sophisticated 
way. She wrote editorial paragraphs and columns of interest to 
women. She took on book reviewing but her salary was not in- 
creased. 

When the New York State Federation of Women’s Clubs assem- 
bled in Brooklyn, she offered the city desk a daily story on this 
event, which seemed to her. to have general news interest. 

The city editor looked at her coldly. 

“You can do me one funny piece,” he said. 

“I can’t do that,” Mrs. Dorr protested. “This isn’t funny. These 
women are organizing. Women all over the country are organizing. 
And it isn’t funny. It is serious. Perhaps it’s the most serious thing 
you and I are facing in our lives. I simply won’t ridicule it.” 

“Young woman,” said the editor sternly, “the first lesson a cub 
reporter has to learn is that he has no opinions. He writes what his 
superiors tell him to write and he writes it in their way.” 

But all the other papers treated the Federation seriously next 
morning. The editor was forced to haul down the flag. “I see, after 
all, that they are reporting this damned nonsense over in Brooklyn,” 
he said. “You’d better telephone in a short story at 11.30.” 

So Mrs. Dorr delivered the story and it wasn’t funny. She never 
saw anything amusing in the struggle of women for equality. She 
was more than a mere reporter where their early strivings were 
concerned. She was one of the belligerents herself. In the years 
that followed she watched their progress with a sympathetic eye. 
She began to worry about the harassed faces she saw in the streets 
and subways. She took two rooms on the East Side, had them 
cleaned and fumigated, and lived there for two years while she was 
on the Post , studying her neighbors’ lives, talking to them, taking 
courses at the University Settlement in Rivington Street. 

But she failed to find the rebellious woman in this environment. 
Marriage was still the solitary goal. So she sought for discontent 
among the sporadic strikers. Still she couldn’t find the fighting 
spirit. It was not until she went abroad in 1912, talked to Ellen 
Key in Stockholm, saw the women of Norway and Finland striking 
out for freedom, that the suffrage cause caught her with full force. 
Then William F. Bigelow bought Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst’s story 
for Good Housekeeping and Mrs. Dorr was assigned to collabo- 



The Crusading Spirit 115 

rate on it. She met the suffrage leader in Europe and sailed with 
her for America. Mrs. Pankhurst was held at Ellis Island, but Mrs. 
Dorr was allowed to walk off the ship. She felt indignant, for she 
longed to be a martyr to a cause which she had passionately espoused. 
But the immigration authorities saw no reason for penalizing her. 

When Mrs. Pankhurst returned to England, Mrs. Dorr went 
with her, with the $20,000 that had been raised in America sewn 
into her corsets. The feminist leader was arrested on landing in 
England, but again Mrs. Dorr was obliged to go free. 

She was in Christabel Pankhurst’s flat in London when the news 
came that the fight had been won. 

“You must stand for Parliament,” said Mrs. Dorr to Mrs. Pank- 
hurst. 

“No, no! Christabel is the one,” said her mother. 

Mrs. Dorr was baffled by the complete femininity of the suffrage 
leader. She found her a “Victorian lady who had a Pomeranian to 
which she loved to talk baby-talk, and she adored sitting with her 
feet on a hassock sewing yards of lace on dainty muslin underwear.” 

Fired with the Pankhurst spirit, Mrs. Dorr went to Washington 
in 1914 with Alice Paul and the other leaders of the Woman’s Party. 
She was the most militant of the group that pitched into President 
Wilson on the suffrage question. He stiffened under her interroga- 
tion. At last he turned on her and said, “I think it is not proper for 
me to stand here and be cross-examined by you.” 

All through the years that she fought for the suffrage cause, 
Mrs. Dorr was a newspaper correspondent of no mean order. For a 
time she ran a school page for the Mail and backed John Purroy 
Mitchel in his fight for better schools. She ran a syndicated daily 
editorial column called “As a Woman Sees It.” She got first-class 
assignments from the Mail and was paid as much as any man on 
the staff. 

She refused to go on the Peace Ship, but she traveled on the 
Hughes train, filed a thousand-word story every night, wrote her 
daily editorial and made speeches, too. She was in the Mail office 
when Dr. Rumely was arrested on a charge of buying the paper 
with German money. She resigned after that and free-lanced. She 
did a series of articles on the Dawes committee for the Herald 
Tribune and worked on the Dawes plan. 

One day a motorcycle ran her down in New York and she had 
a nervous breakdown, which kept her out of the writing game for 
many months. She went to Czecho-Slovakia to convalesce and again 
began to pound her typewriter. She was in Italy during the early 
days of Mussolini’s rise, and she wrote illuminatingly about Fascist 
jloings, but did not sign her work, for her son was in the consular 



ii6 Ladies of the Press 

service. She told how Mussolini dosed the opposition with castor oil 
so that he could march through the gates of the Caesars unimpeded. 
In 1925 she was in Bulgaria during the Communist outbreaks. She 
got to Sofia just after the Cathedral had been mined and blown up. 
Afterwards she wrote a number of articles on Bulgaria and Rumania 
for the Herald Tribune and other papers. She was handsomely 
treated in both countries. 

Since 1925 Mrs. Dorr has done little newspaper work, but she 
still writes and lectures. In 1928 her biography of Susan B. An- 
thony was published. In the following year she wrote Drink: Co- 
ercion or Control? Her autobiography, A Woman of Fifty , is a 
fascinating account of the life of a woman reporter who overcame 
the obstacles of the nineties and rode high on Park Row during the 
war period. She is a woman of fiery courage and strong convictions. 
Now and again among newspaper women a crusader arises. Rheta 
Childe Dorr is one of these. She went after news with intense pur- 
pose and wrote with power and finish. She was never a negligible 
figure in a newspaper office. She loved her profession but was not 
insensitive to its drawbacks. 

The most realistic critic of women’s status in journalism, however, 
is Catherine Brody, whose experience is an antidote to the glamour 
stories that invest the girl reporter. She found prejudice and niggling 
injustice rather than adventure on Park Row— another side of the 
picture, and true in many cases. After watching the women in the 
city rooms of several New York papers, Miss Brody came to the 
conclusion that they were the victims of every kind of discrimina- 
tion. Certainly no one made things easy for her, and she had to fight 
for recognition. Yet she was an able and conscientious reporter. 

Miss Brody took a course in journalism at New York University 
at night, chiefly because one of the classes met in the city room of 
the Globe , and she thought that this would give her an opportunity 
to see what a city room was like. She had another job at the time, 
but she conceived the idea of writing a series of stories signed by 
different types of girls, telling how they felt about their work, their 
prospects and their daily round. She did realistic portraits of a dress- 
maker, a stenographer, a manicurist and others. 

George T. Hughes, city editor of the Globe , read the first, liked 
it and offered her a post. She was on the paper for two years— first 
as a special feature writer, then on general assignments. She got stiff 
jobs to do, for she had shown her capacity to get at facts. She 
worked on the copy desk but felt all the time that she was inter- 
fering with her colleagues’ freedom and that they resented her. 

She left the Globe to go abroad, having first made an arrangement 
to send back two features a week. She steered clear of straight news 



T he Crusading Spirit nj 

but got sharp slants on many of the social problems of the day. The 
proceeds from her work supported her in France for six months. 
Then she came back to find that all the city editors of all the New 
York papers— including her own— had filled their quotas of girl re- 
porters, which she estimated was one-half of one per cent of the 
male staff. Eventually she got on the World. 

It was then that Miss Brody thought up for herself the assignment 
which brought her a reputation as a newspaper woman of enterprise 
and courage. She did a cross-country tour, working in factories, 
doing odd jobs under all sorts of difficult conditions, and writing the 
results in a series called “What Happens When a Girl Goes Job- 
Hunting.” It was widely syndicated and provoked much discussion. 
Miss Brody worked for a week each in twenty cities and indus- 
trial towns. It took her six months to complete her trip. She traveled 
with a portable typewriter and an overnight bag and umbrella. 
She landed in a town on Monday morning, checked her things and 
rustled up a job that suited her requirements. She had to vary the 
industries as much as she could. She usually chose work associated 
with the city— an automobile factory in Detroit, a packing factory 
in Chicago. She arranged her living conditions to suit her pay, which 
ranged from $8 to $ 1 3 a week. She kept up her notes every night and 
at the end of a week took a day off to pound out a five-thousand- 
word story. Then she caught a train for the next town. 

When she got back she found that a World staff man who had 
been doing a traveling series under much more comfortable and 
remunerative conditions— his expenses paid by the office— was back 
on the staff again, whereas there seemed to be no place for her. 
So she decided to try free-lancing. She wrote several excellent 
books— one of them, Nobody Starves , getting critical recognition. 
But to Miss Brody the glamour stories of Park Row are so much 
ectoplasm. She remembers the long hours she worked, the poor pay 
she got, the editorial distaste for a woman on the staff, the general 
badgering about that sums up her impressions of newspaper life. 

Another crusader who used the news columns of her paper for 
social causes was Sophie Irene Loeb, who pushed through various 
legislative reforms in New York State. She was on the staff of the 
Everting World from 1910 until her death in 1929. Few newspaper 
women have been able to effect so much in the way of concrete 
legislation. She was the social worker first, the newspaper woman 
second; but she managed to combine both phases of her career to 
the benefit of her paper. The Evening World backed her in her 
campaigns, played up her stories, many of which had the propa- 
gandist note, and helped hfcr materially to put her reforms across. 
It was an arrangement of mutual benefit. 



n8 Ladies of the Press 

Miss Loeb was bom in Russia in 1876 and was brought to the 
United States when she was six years old. She embarked on child 
welfare in 1910, when she made a study of the plight of widows 
in the congested parts of the city. She got her facts at first hand. 
She learned from the workers’ widows how she could best aid them. 
Her dominating idea was to keep children out of orphanages. At her 
insistence the New York State Commission for the Relief of Wid- 
owed Mothers was appointed in 1913. 

Miss Loeb went to Europe, studied parallel conditions there, and 
laid her report before the legislature in 1914. She became well 
known in the lobbies of Albany and before long the pension system 
for widows became legislative fact. For years Miss Loeb served as 
president of the State Board of Child Welfare. During her tenure 
the annual appropriation to aid widows was increased from $100,000 
to $5,000,000. She fought to have the word illegitimate expunged 
from the legal terminology of the state; she sponsored penny lunches 
in the public schools, housing relief, public play streets for children, 
maternity service for mothers, sanitary and fireproof buildings and 
the bonding of taxicab drivers. 

She was an authority on traffic and was asked to mediate in the 
walk-out of taxi chauffeurs in 1917. She not only acted as mediator 
but settled the strike in record time. She helped to frame the taxicab 
rates of Manhattan. Miss Loeb never received pay for any of her 
public work, and she always declined to ran for office. Her history 
as a journalist is the record of a humanitarian and reformer, for her 
stories from day to day were almost invariably tinged with propa- 
ganda. Although other newspaper women have gone in for public 
service, they have done it in a secondary way or to sponsor cam- 
paigns for their papers, but Miss Loeb’s energies were devoted first 
and foremost to the cause of reform, and for this she was well 
known both here and abroad. Her newspaper work was merely the 
expression of her strong social interests. 



[ ” 9 ] 


Chapter XI 

WAR AND SUFFRAGE 


W hen the South Amboy explosion occurred on Octo- 
ber 4, 1918, Eleanor Booth Simmons was assigned by the 
New York Sun to cover the relief and refugee angle of 
the disaster. She belonged to the Frank Ward O’Malley era and her 
own work shone, even in this competitive setting. 

The explosion, followed by fire, had laid waste the largest shell- 
loading plant in the world. The death list was 64 and 150 more were 
badly injured. All that night and most of the following day the 
fire raged and firemen fought to keep it from reaching 8,000,000 
pounds of TNT stored in the vicinity. 

When Miss Simmons got to South Amboy she found Mr. 
O’Malley and Russell Owen, of South Pole fame, in charge of the 
story. All of the men on the spot were wondering how they were 
to get permission from the military police to go into South Amboy 
and Morgan, the banned district where the fire still raged. 

Miss Simmons knew that if the men were having trouble there 
was little hope for her, so she hung about Red Cross headquarters, 
picking up human interest copy. By chance she heard one of the 
gray-uniformed girls of the Motor Corps tell another that she was 
going to try to get into South Amboy. Miss Simmons begged for a 
lift. She was thrust into the back seat of the car, with the warning 
that she would have to look out for herself if the soldiers on the 
bridge stopped them. The area was under heavy military guard. 
Their car was stopped repeatedly, but the driver was good-looking, 
she jollied the guards effectively, and roared right through. Miss 
Simmons shrank low in the back seat and was not noticed. 

In a few minutes they were in the wrecked district, surrounded 
by black ruin. The bewildered survivors wandered about, still dazed 
from what had happened. Miss Simmons worked quickly, going 
from one to another and getting their experiences. She rode back 
to South Amboy with the last load of refugees. The men’s faces 
were studies when she appeared. They had not yet succeeded in 
crashing through. 



izo Ladies of the Press 

“How in the world did you get over there?” they demanded. 

“I asked a woman to take me,” said Miss Simmons. 

She was told to get to the office as fast as she could and write her 
story. She had some sprinting to do before she could find a con- 
veyance. The street cars were not running, the trains were late, 
but at last she found a taxi that took her to Jersey City for $15. 
She wrote seven columns of admirable eye-witness copy, as fine a 
clean-up as any newspaper woman ever put across on a major 
catastrophe. 

Miss Simmons started work on the Sun in 1915, moving over from 
the Tribune , where she had done women’s assignments. Kenneth 
Lord gave her news stories to do almost at once. He even let her 
cover a fire, which was enterprising for that period. Then one day 
she asked him to assign her to the Willard-Moran prize fight in 
Madison Square Garden. This was long before newspaper women 
dreamed of invading the press rows around the prize ring. Mr. 
Lord was astonished by the strange request. He took half an hour 
to think it over; then he called Miss Simmons and said, “The idea 
of a prize fight story from a woman’s angle appeals to me; better 
do it.” She turned in a story that justified his decision. 

Miss Simmons had many good assignments during the war days. 
This was a period when newspaper women got an excellent play. 
The staffs were short of men. There were a number of women re- 
porters about. They got their innings. War and suffrage landed 
them effectively on the front page. Then came the parades. Flags 
on Fifth Avenue. Tramping feet. Gleaming bayonets. Repeatedly she 
wrote of the marching men on their way to France. When President 
Wilson headed the Red Cross parade a policeman lifted her right out 
of the ranks by the back of her neck, spuming her police card. 
Sarah Addington, of the Tribune , another excellent woman reporter 
who has since had success in the short story field, was yanked out 
with the other hand. 

In January, 1924, Miss Simmons went out one afternoon to inter- 
view Rebecca West by appointment. Miss West was not in an 
amiable mood. She yawned. She was bored. “I have had a wild, wild 
day,” she told Miss Simmons and yawned again. New York wore 
her out. It kept her from sleep. She turned her back on the reporter 
and read letters. “Did I tell you to come this evening at six, really?” 
she asked at last. 

“You did,” said Miss Simmons firmly. “But of course if you want 
to dine — ” 

“I shall not dine for hours yet,” said Miss West mournfully. 

Miss Simmons asked her for her views on newspaper work. Miss 
West gave them readily: 



1 2 1 


War and Suffrage 

It is very different in England. It is nearly all routine work 
there. In America you seem to make an adventure of it. You are 
so restless. But I cannot understand this idea of newspaper work 
being a good preparation for fiction writing. Turning out such 
endless columns must exhaust the mind. Now I— I blazed a trail 
for myself very early. I would write only what I wanted to 
write and I would sign everything. I do very little newspaper 
work except now and then an important trial for the human 
interest of it. 

Then Miss West decided to take a bath. The interview went on 
by reluctant stages, above the splashing of the water, then to the ac- 
companiment of swishing silk. Miss Simmons got more and more 
annoyed. All efforts to penetrate the author’s indifference were un- 
successful. At last Miss West smoothed her hair demurely and said, 
“By the way, what time is it? And do you mind letting yourself 
out?” 

Miss Simmons let herself out gladly and went back to her office. 
She wrote a piece of devastating satire. Next day Hey wood Broun 
said in his column that if he had $1,000,000 to give away for the 
best story of the year, it would go to Miss Simmons for her inter- 
view with Miss West. Alexander Woollcott called it an “artful, 
convincing and delicately murderous” piece of work, but he thought 
she had not been fair to Miss West, whom he greatly admires. 
The story was widely quoted. It was a scathing piece of writing. 
Miss West was annoyed. In an article in Harpers Magazine she said 
that the reporter had come to her with hatred in her heart— an odd 
mistake, Miss Simmons thought, for another journalist to make. 

No stories were signed during Miss Simmons’ days on the Sun , 
although the columns of the paper sparkled constantly with witty 
and sophisticated writing. Her own stories were clever, humorous, 
often very sharp. She could take a single fact and spin it into an 
entertaining column. It was not the kind of reporting that flourishes 
to-day, but it was part of the old Sun tradition. 

Miss Simmons broke into newspaper work quite by accident. 
She began writing poems, stories and essays as a girl in Wisconsin. 
She sent them out and some were accepted. When her parents died 
she moved to New York, thinking that her mission in life was nurs- 
ing. She entered a hospital to train but defied the head nurse, and 
that ended her career as a probationer. 

While she was still in the hospital she met one of the first of the 
Henry Street visiting nurses. In those days Lillian D. Wald frowned 
on publicity, but this nurse took Miss Simmons with her secretly 
on her rounds. Miss Simmons wrote a story on what she saw and 
sent it to the Tribune . This got her a job. She did Sunday specials 



122 


Ladies of the Tress 

for a time and then was transferred to the woman’s department, 
which was secluded on an upper floor. Madeline Pierce, the editor, 
sent all the copy downstairs to the city room by boy so that no one 
would suffer from the obnoxious sight of a female in the city room. 
George Burdick, the city editor, was dubious of the strange beings 
who inhabited the upper regions. 

But gradually the scope of the woman reporter’s work widened. 
The suffrage movement began to get interesting about 19 11. The 
feminists captured plenty of front-page space. The high point was 
the suffrage parade to Washington on March 3, 1913, when mobs of 
hoodlums defied the police and broke up the orderly line of 9,000 
marchers, knocking down women, spitting in their faces, yelling 
epithets at them. Miss Simmons saw old Mrs. Henry Villard picking 
herself up from the mud, Inez Milholland riding straight at the 
rioters on her white horse, and the cavalry arriving on the dead run 
from Fort Myer. She was knocked down herself, but she got to 
Continental Hall in time to hear Dr. Anna Howard Shaw’s denun- 
ciation of the Washington police. 

Miss Simmons has retired from newspaper work. She lives in 
Demarest, New Jersey, and does publicity. Her hobby is cats. Her 
book Cats is the last word on the subject. She reads the papers with 
the detached interest of one who has shared in many great stories 
and is now content to watch the parade go by. Few women have 
written more brilliantly for the New York papers; none more 
wittily. 

Soon after Miss Simmons got established on the Tribune , a shy 
girl with candid blue eyes and a New England conscience walked 
into the office and got a job. She was fresh from Barnard and a 
year’s teaching in Methuen High School. This was Emma Bugbee, 
who for a quarter of a century has been writing for the one paper. 
She has seen reporters come and go, be spectacular, write stirring 
stories and fade out of the picture. Meanwhile, she has gone along 
at a level pace, recording every advance made by women in pub- 
lic life. 

Miss Bugbee does political writing in the straight news style that 
suits her paper. She is a specialist in this field, although she can 
cover any type of assignment from a flower show to a murder. She 
was on the front page during the war with her suffrage stories. She 
is on the front page to-day with the doings of Mrs. Roosevelt. 

She is the only women reporter on the Herald Tribune , a paper 
where the entire outlook on women’s activities is broad. This means 
that she is constantly in demand for assignments involving the prog- 
ress of women in public life, which suits her perfectly, for she is a 
feminist by conviction. She has nursed the suffrage cause from its 



War and Suffrage 123 

infancy. She has been on hand for every innovation— the first woman 
judge, the first woman governor, the first woman registrar. When 
they fail or turn corrupt she is incredulous. When they do a good 
job she is quietly triumphant. 

In the busiest years of the suffrage campaign Miss Bugbee and 
Miss Simmons did little else. There were several different head- 
quarter to be covered every day. There were no press agents, no 
hand-outs. They had to go personally to see Dr. Shaw, Mrs. Carrie 
Chapman Catt or Mrs. Belmont. They had to dig out letters from 
their mail that might make news. Things were particularly lively 
during the days of the Bull Moose campaign. New women’s political 
organizations were forming overnight. The reporters were run off 
their feet. One summer day when Miss Simmons and Miss Bugbee 
were away on vacation, Evangeline Cole (now Mrs. Martin H. 
Wehncke) wrote virtually a complete page of the paper. 

The women were allowed to work up a story, but when it be- 
came front-page stuff they were snatched off it and a man was put 
on the job. One striking example was Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst’s 
detention at Ellis Island, when she came to America in the heat of 
the suffrage campaign. A man was assigned to the story. It was apt 
to be the same with the suffrage parades. 

However, on the eve of the last big parade, Miss Cole was depu- 
tized to ask Ogden Reid if the women could handle the entire story 
themselves. Mr. Reid, who later became one of the most liberal 
editors to his women reporters, hesitated at first but said finally that 
if Milton Snyder, the night managing editor, consented, it would 
be all right with him. The battle was won, because Mr. Snyder liked 
the work of the women reporters. Mr. Burdick surrendered and 
helped to map out the day’s schedule. Miss Simmons wrote the lead, 
a double column story on the front page. Miss Bugbee did the 
straight news story. Ethel Peyser, who specialized in domestic science 
news for the Tribune, helped her. Miss Cole and Christine Valleau, 
the department secretary, took the side stories. They filled nine 
column^ between them. Not a word of their copy was changed. 
This was a great triumph for the suffrage reporters. 

Thereafter they marched side by side with the militants and shared 
in the brickbats and cheers. In the winter of 1914 General Rosalie 
Jones announced that she would hike to Albany, carrying a peti- 
tion to Governor Martin H. Glynn, urging suffrage measures before 
the New York State Legislature. It began to look like a story. The 
managing editor said to Miss Bugbee: 

“I think we ought to be covered on this. Could you get one of 
the women to keep in touch with us every night and tell us what 
happens?” 



124 Ladies of the Press 

“I supposed I should go along with them,” said Miss Bugbee. 

But editors in those days felt that women reporters should not get 
their feet wet, if it could be avoided. Some of them still do. 

“Oh, we wouldn’t want you to do a thing like that,” he said, a 
little shocked. “It would be so cold.” 

“But I want to,” Miss Bugbee insisted hardily. 

“Well, it would be fine if you feel that way about it.” 

So she was allowed to march, and the editor’s worst expectations 
were fulfilled. She rode in a police patrol to Yonkers. She got cold 
and wet. She invaded her first saloon and startled the bartender by 
demanding coffee. The trek was 150 miles. She had good compan- 
ionship along the way— Dorothy Dix, Ada Patterson, Viola Rodgers, 
the silver-haired beauty from the American', Zoe Eeckley, Sophie 
Treadwell, Martha Coman, Ethel Lloyd Patterson (now Mrs. Liston 
L. Lewis), Virginia Hudson and several others. 

They were en route on Christmas day. The local women arranged 
meetings along the way. There were many human interest stories 
about this motley army, tramping through the snow in the burden- 
some costumes of the period. They arrived in Albany led by a police 
escort and fife and drum corps. General Jones carried a lighted lan- 
tern. The camp followers and “war correspondents” had to struggle 
with the spectators on the sidewalk to keep them from breaking 
through the line to shake hands with the little general. 

Governor Glynn received them cordially. 

“Are you Diogenes?” he asked the leader as he noticed her lighted 
lantern. 

“I’m looking for an honest statesman,” said the General, extending 
her hand. 

“I feel honored that you called,” Governor Glynn assured her. 

The purpose of the march was to make people talk and think 
about suffrage. Miss Bugbee’s stories made the front page. They 
were done in a jocular vein. No one took suffrage seriously at this 
stage, except the suffragists themselves. However, the trip to Albany 
incited them to further efforts. They decided to storm Washington. 
This time they wore pilgrim capes and brown hoods for identifica- 
tion. The same group of newspaper girls accompanied them. Miss 
Bugbee took them as far as Philadelphia. Miss Simmons marched 
them into Washington. The Tribune was thoroughly covered all 
along the route of march. 

On another occasion Miss Bugbee found herself in the thick 
of a suffrage brawl when Alice Paul, of the Woman’s Party, tried 
to crash the Metropolitan Opera House with her followers and ban- 
ners, while Woodrow Wilson was speaking there. They wanted 
to badger him on the suffrage question. But the police got rough 



War and Suffrage 125 

with them instead. One minute they were walking on the sidewalk; 
the next the police had pounced on them and the street was filled 
with tumult. 

All these stories helped the status of the women reporters in New 
York. In 1915 the Tribune girls were brought downstairs to the 
city room. Women’s news had now officially become part of the 
general schedule. Bessie Breuer was the last person to shepherd the 
flock as a separate body. One of her understudies was Doris E. 
Fleischman, who now functions as a public relations counsel with 
her husband, Edward L. Bemays. She was graduated from Barnard 
in 1913, worked for the Tribune for two years, and later became 
associated with Mr. Bernays. 

Soon after this women ceased to be a novelty in the city room 
of the Tribune . For a time they swarmed within call of the city 
desk. Ernestine Evans, Marie Montalvo, Hannah Mitchell, Blanche 
Brace, Solita Solano, Sarah Addington, Hilda Jackson, Natalie Mc- 
Closkey (now Mrs. Leon Gordon), Rebecca Drucker, Selma Robin- 
son, all came and went, finding their ultimate fortunes in other 
fields. 

Miss Bugbee celebrated with the suffrage workers when the vote 
was won in 1917, and continued to cover their activities. Women 
candidates became her job on election night as well as candidates’ 
wives. She has watched them in triumph and defeat, and has hurried 
back to the city room, strung with wires, desks jammed together, 
the air vibrant with excitement, to write fast copy to catch an 
edition. 

She went to her first political convention in 1924 and has covered 
them all since then. At Houston Mrs. A 1 Smith was her particular 
care. When the nomination was made someone gave the candidate’s 
wife a baby donkey, which she held in her lap like a baby. She did 
not want to give an interview. She never has cared for publicity, 
leaving all that to Al. Her box was high above the floor. Two police- 
men lifted Miss Bugbee until she was on a level with Mrs. Smith 
and could talk to her. 

“This is the proudest day of my life,” said Mrs. Smith, with tears 
in her eyes. 

Miss Bugbee has followed Mrs. Roosevelt’s activities closely. The 
high point of her newspaper career was her flight with her to Puerto 
Rico. She has done more than 10,000 miles with her altogether. The 
Puerto Rican trip alone was more than 6,000; the return from the 
West in the summer of 1934 was 3,000, and she has been back and 
forth to Washington by airplane and train with Mrs. Roosevelt (a 
distance of 239 miles) more than half a dozen times. 

One of Miss Bugbee’s early assignments was a trip in an armored 



126 Ladies of the Press 

plane, a stunt suggested by Mr. MacAlamey. Her newspaper experi- 
ence has been extraordinarily varied and has covered more than 
two decades of changing social customs. She followed Lady Astor 
and Madame Curie on their trips to America. She spent an eerie 
night at Roosevelt Field with Mrs. Bert Acosta and the other flyers’ 
wives, waiting for Commander Richard E. Byrd to take off on his 
trans-Atlantic flight. 

Miss Bugbee has certain annual stories which she has not missed in 
more years than most women reporters have held jobs. She covers 
all the women’s conventions of any importance, and sometimes 
crosses the continent on an assignment of this sort. All the club 
women know her. In spring her desk is buried under flowers when 
the annual flower show comes along. She does the cat show and she 
is one of the first reporters hunted up by the amiable Dexter Fel- 
lows when he comes to town with the circus. 

Miss Bugbee’s position on the Tribune is unique. She has out- 
lasted many city editors and has watched scores of reporters, men 
and women, come and go. She writes editorials on women in the 
news and does graceful nature pieces from time to time, in addi- 
tion to her work for the city desk. The political writers like to talk 
things over with her, for she is sagacious and shrewd, and she has 
seen a great deal of the devious ways of politicians. She is a calm 
and restrained reporter, but when she gets the chance she can write 
gay and dashing stuff, for she has a keen sense of humor, a light 
touch. Miss Bugbee is never run off her feet, no matter how hectic 
things are around her. It is characteristic of her to stroll in on a 
story, neither breathless nor expectant. She makes a neat speech, 
writes an occasional outside article and has many friends both in and 
outside the newspaper world. 

She has been president several times of the New York Newspaper 
Women’s Club, which was founded by Martha Coman in the early 
twenties to take the place of the gatherings the women reporters 
had when they covered suffrage headquarters. They used to have tea 
together almost every day to talk over the news they had picked 
up. Because they felt lost without this regular daily meeting it oc- 
curred to Miss Coman that it might be a good idea to form a club. 
She invited eight of them to tea one Sunday afternoon to talk it 
over. This was the beginning of the club, which is now a flour- 
ishing organization. It is clear of debt, has club rooms in the 
Savoy-Plaza, and counts among its members the leading newspaper 
women of the city. Each year its members give a smart ball. They 
try to find employment for newspaper women out of work, have 
many social gatherings and' have helped to raise the status of the 
newspaper woman in New York. 



War and Suffrage 127 

It was Miss Coman who boldly tackled Frank A. Munsey on the 
subject of men smoking in the city room soon after he bought the 
Herald . Her letter to the ogre of Park Row caused laughter among 
her colleagues. He thought that a city room should be large, light 
and clean. He hated to see paper strewn on the floor and, above all, 
he could not bear to have anyone smoke. This was a hardship to the 
men who had recently been puffing their pipes and cigarettes in the 
more lrberal atmosphere of the Herald. The lack of tobacco inter- 
fered with their thinking processes. It made them all despondent. 

As they were aware that Miss Coman knew Mr. Munsey per- 
sonally, they asked her to take their case to headquarters. They in- 
timated— somewhat facetiously— that it was because of her presence 
in the city room that they were not permitted to smoke. She hap- 
pened to be the only woman on the staff. 

Miss Coman, always a good sport, wrote to Mr. Munsey. She took 
the precaution first of asking all the women secretaries if they ob- 
jected to smoking. She showed her letter to some of the editors. 
She pointed out in it that she had been brought up in an atmosphere 
of Herald smoke. Mr. Munsey took the matter quite seriously. He 
told her solemnly that he would rather give up his magazines and 
papers than let the men smoke. After that there were no two ways 
about it. They had to sneak their smokes in corridors and vacant 
offices. 

Miss C an entered newspaper work by chance. She lived on the 
Pacifir ast, went to college in California, and came East only 
bee' ner sister had preceded her and she was suddenly fired with 
V v .oition to follow her and get a job. She was not trained for 
.ling specific. But through her sister, who was on the Munsey 
, .if, she got a clerical post, and with her aid started selling photo- 
graphs to newspapers and magazines. 

One day, when she went in to show the Sunday editor of the 
Herald some photographs, he bought a batch of them, then of- 
fered her a job at a guarantee of $25 a week, having just fired most 
of his staff. She stayed with the paper until it was bought by Mr. 
Munsey. The suffrage movement was in full swing, so that she found 
her opportunity almost at once. Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont and Mrs. 
Clarence Mackay opened up decorative headquarters and the women 
reporters stopped in daily for news. Miss Coman fared well from 
the start. She was calm, poised, workmanlike, could do any job in a 
competent way, had dignity, good looks, and in every respect was 
the ideal choice for a newspaper office not friendly to women. She 
seemed the sober blend of all the desirable qualities. She understood 
women’s interests, was mildly sympathetic to the suffrage cause, but 
had a twinkle in her forthright eye that suggested she was not being 



128 Ladies of the Press 

taken in by their silly antics. She never felt the slightest discrimina- 
tion, and for years she covered straight news stories just like the 
men with whom she worked. 

The nearest she ever came to suffering injustice from an editor 
was on the old Herald . She had sent out three suffrage stories by the 
copy boy, one of which Mrs. Belmont was particularly anxious to 
have printed. For some reason the others appeared but not the pet 
story. Mrs. Belmont raised a terrific row and threatened to cable to 
Mr. Bennett and have Miss Coman discharged. The city editor 
promptly sent a cablegram to Mr. Bennett saying, “The woman 
reporter says she wrote the story and gave it to a copy boy.” 
He was evading responsibility because the story evidently had been 
spiked. Mrs. Mackay heard about the incident, was most con- 
cerned, and said she would get in touch with Mr. Bennett at once, 
protesting any action against Miss Coman. The row raged for a 
few days. Then it blew over. Mr. Bennett was somewhere in the 
Mediterranean on his yacht and in those days wireless had not 
been perfected, so that news could not reach him as quickly as now. 

The only time Miss Coman ever encountered Mr. Bennett per- 
sonally was in the West Indies, where he had sent her to stay for the 
winter. He had an idea that this region should be developed into 
an American Riviera. She was assigned to do social affairs, cover the 
islands and boost the resorts. Mr. Bennett arrived one day on his 
yacht and they had a chat together. She had heard many tales of 
her stormy employer but she found him peaceable enough face to 
face. 

Miss Coman was one of the reporters on the famous Hughes 
train that toured the country in an effort to back up Charles Evans 
Hughes for President, because he had declared himself in favor of 
the national suffrage amendment. Other newspaper women on the 
expedition were Ernestine Evans, Miriam Teichner, Fanny Butcher, 
Mary Ross, and Rheta Childe Dorr, who did a double job, writing 
the news of the trip for her paper and making speeches for Mr. 
Hughes at every stop. 

There were parades, luncheons, teas, dinners and mass meetings. 
The train got many fancy appellations such as “The Diamond Spe- 
cial” and “Golden Limited.” It had some of the absurd elements of 
the Ford Peace Ship about it. The country’s most active suffrage 
workers were on board. Miss Coman’s orders from her city editor 
were to spoof the expedition. She did this without any difficulty at 
the start. But when she began to send more serious stories she soon 
got a telegram from the Herald reminding her of her orders. From 
then on one nonsensical episode followed another, so that it was not 
at all difficult to maintain the jesting touch. 



War and Suffrage 129 

The women who ran the train were bitterly disappointed that 
the important papers should have seen fit to send women reporters 
instead of men. The Times was the only exception. Feminists though 
they were, they felt they were not being taken seriously enough 
because the star political reporters were not on board. Yet some of 
the most intelligent and experienced newspaper women of New 
York were on the train. 

On the morning after they left, the reporters made their way 
back to the observation car to get the day’s program. They were 
rudely ushered out and told not to return. The suffrage leaders 
refused to give them an itinerary or information of any sort, so 
they had to get their news by the grapevine route. This was so 
much the worse for the Hughesettes, as they were called. The 
stories that went sizzling back to New York made fun of the whole 
expedition. Ridicule met them at every point. The legend of sables 
and diamonds spread like wildfire and made no hit with the public. 

In one manufacturing city where they stayed over so that they 
could speak at noon outside one of the big factories, the men coming 
out for lunch jeered at them, calling them millionaires and idlers. 
One of the organizers answered these gibes. She made a stump 
speech in which she said that the women on the train were not a 
wealthy group. In fact, she added, not one of them had more than 
$100,000. The hoots of the workers drowned all further efforts to 
speak. In another place they lunched at the smartest club in town 
with all their diamonds showing. In the afternoon they made a slum 
expedition and turned their rings around. “Diamonds In, Diamonds 
Out” was the headline on a story written by one of the facetious 
scribes on the train about this false gesture. 

The women campaigners did not show the deft political touch. 
Before they reached San Francisco the reporters had word that 
funds were giving out. One of the organizers had to dash back to 
New York for cash. It was about this time that a telegram reached 
Miss Coman’s paper asking that she be recalled, as the passengers 
thought she was treating them with too much levity. Next day the 
Herald , delighted that her satire had been so successful, sent Miss 
Coman a copy of the message without comment. 

Their magnificence dwindled as the expedition came to a close. 
They returned to New York with much less elegance than they 
had started out. They had dusted the country with noise, fuss and 
feathers but had done Mr. Hughes little good. 

Miss Coman left the Herald a year before it was bought by the 
Tribune . Since then she has edited a weekly newspaper, done pub- 
licity for Harpers, directed Smith College publicity for four years 
and is now with the Phoenix News Publicity Bureau. 



130 Ladies of the Press 

In nearly every small town in the country, and at many cross- 
roads, are women who have seen Marjorie Shuler, of the Christian 
Science Monitor , or heard her speak. She is one of the ablest mem- 
bers of the profession, and has covered more ground in the last 
decade than almost any of her colleagues. In 1934 she flew 22,000 
miles in South America, going completely around the continent and 
into the interior of the Brazilian jungle. 

Like Dorothy Thompson, Miss Shuler was identified with the 
suffrage movement, did publicity for it, campaigned for women’s 
rights, covered all conventions of importance, no matter where they 
were held, and frequently helped to draft resolutions as well as to 
report the event for her paper. 

Her life has all the glamour of the foreign correspondent’s. She 
has a roving commission and goes wherever constructive news is 
in the making. She has been sent to Europe half a dozen times 
to report international conventions. They have not all been women’s 
gatherings, but have embraced law, education, science and bank- 
ing. She was in Budapest when orders came for her to interview 
Alexandra Kollontai, the newly appointed Soviet Minister. She hur- 
ried across Europe but through mistaken information given her by 
an English official she went to Sweden instead of Norway. She 
reached Stockholm at noon one Saturday. In short order she had to 
get a railroad ticket, a Norwegian visa and change her passage back 
to England, meanwhile wondering if she were not being misin- 
formed again. It was difficult to get accurate information because 
of language complications. 

No sleepers were available on the train to Norway. She sat up all 
night and had to go without breakfast in the morning. She arrived 
in Oslo exhausted and hungry but there her bad luck stopped. She 
found Kollontai, talked to her for two hours, and brought back the 
first interview with her for publication in America. 

When she was abroad in 1926 she had an interview with the King 
of Spain, obtained through the intervention of a non-English speak- 
ing aide, after it had been denied through the usual diplomatic 
channels. Miss Shuler began by telling the King an amusing story 
and he talked to her frankly after that. 

On the day that Queen Marie landed in America she had a ship 
ladder adventure that nearly landed her in the ocean off Quarantine. 
It was a rough day. The long wooden ladder was covered with 
sleet. She climbed up it from the tug on her hands and knees, but 
it was worse getting back. Most of the other newspaper women 
stayed on the ship and saijed into port with the Queen. But Miss 
Shuler had a deadline to catch. She insisted on leaving the ship, al- 
though she was advised that it would be dangerous. 



War and Suffrage 131 

Three times after she had started she was pulled back because the 
swell of the sea had carried the tug beyond reach of the ladder. On 
her last try she heard a yell and looked down to see that the ladder 
had swung out so far that the men holding it had to link their feet 
around the rail of the tug and slant their bodies outward over the 
sea. She finally got to safety. Boarding an incoming liner is not al- 
ways such a perilous business. 

When she was on her way to Mexico for a vacation Miss Shuler 
stopped off in Havana and instinctively got on the trail of a good 
story. She decided that there must be some human interest angles 
on the Cuban officers who were imprisoned in the National Hotel 
within sight of their own homes, while they were waiting to be shot. 
She hired a badly frightened taxi driver to take her close to the 
hotel and she hung over the side of the car, smiling at the soldiers. 
They were bored after so many days on guard, so they talked. They 
rested their rifles on the running board and told her what they meant 
to do— how they would kill some of the officers and let others go 
free. Meanwhile the officers watched them as they talked, peering 
through the doors and windows of their sumptuous jail. 

Miss Shuler borrowed the purser’s typewriter on her ship, batted 
out a good human interest story, and sent it by airmail from Yuca- 
tan. It arrived in the nick of time and ran under a four-column head 
on the front page of the Monitor the day the hotel was fired on. 

In addition to her extensive newspaper and club work Miss Shuler 
has written four books and contributed to the national magazines. 
She won a Bookman award for the best newspaper story taken from 
any paper in the world. It was a short piece about Mrs. Lindbergh, 
ripped out paragraph by paragraph from her machine, right on the 
deadline— which is the way that some of the best news stories have 
been written. 

Miss Shuler started newspaper work at the age of sixteen, when 
she was fresh from high school. She worked on the Buffalo Courier 
for two months for nothing, then joined the Express staff at $8 a 
week. On the Monitor she has achieved a national reputation as one 
of the leading newspaper women in the country. 




PART TWO 




{ 135 } 


Chapter XII 
IN COMMAND 


4 T FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON, JUST WHEN THE LIFE IN THE 

/ \ city room of the New York Herald Tribune is beginning 
\ to quicken, a small figure, exquisitely groomed, may often 
be seen walking past the reporters’ desks on her way to the office 
of the managing editor. This is Mrs. Ogden Reid, a quiet but potent 
force in New York journalism. 

Her glance travels slowly from face to face in the city room. It is 
a wise, perceiving look of singular concentration. She knows the 
history of all the writers and desk men within sight. She has an 
accurate idea of their capacity and usefulness to the paper. 

Mrs. Reid’s position in journalism is unique. Technically, she is 
vice-president and advertising director of the paper, but she has 
more power than these positions ordinarily would convey. For she 
is the wife of the owner and works on a partnership basis. All im- 
portant decisions are made by Mr. and Mrs. Reid together. Her 
influence is subtly wielded. She never issues blanket orders. Brief 
memoranda signed H.R.R. find their way to the heads of every de- 
partment of the paper, but they rarely contain anything stronger 
than a gracefully worded suggestion. However, that is enough. 
They are instantly accepted as law. 

Mrs. Reid interferes little with the editorial department except in 
major matters of policy. She rarely passes judgment on a story or 
volunteers an opinion on the way in which it has been played. But 
where advertising interests are at stake, a big syndicate feature is 
about to be bought, or a new department is being started, she gives 
the most careful and tireless interest to nursing along the project. 

She did not rest until she got the papers of Colonel E. M. House 
in the winter of 1926. She and Mr. Reid were first on the trail, 
stuck to it and offered the highest figure. They bought the news- 
paper rights for a substantial sum. In the end the feature cost the 
paper little, for the letters syndicated so well throughout the coun- 
try that the original outlay was virtually covered. Three years later 
Mrs. Reid went after the serial rights of Ray Stannard Baker’s Life 



1 36 Ladies of the Press 

and Letters of Woodrow Wilson with equal enterprise. The Times 
and the World were in competition. She telephoned to Doubleday, 
Page for a four-day option, as Mr. Reid was duck shooting at “Fly- 
way, ” his place in North Carolina. The publishers refused politely to 
hold things up. The time element was of vital importance, with com- 
petitive bidding imperiling their chances of getting the serial rights. 
She did not want to sign on her own responsibility without consult- 
ing Mr. Reid, so she took the first train south, hired a car and bumped 
over a rough road that the Negro chauffeur thought was impassable. 
Mr. Reid agreed with her that they should pay top price. She had 
the publishers on the telephone by seven o’clock that evening and 
closed for the New York rights at a formidable figure. 

The purchase of these two features was part of a general liberal- 
izing plan for the paper. Although the editorial page remains a 
model of what the well-disciplined Republican might like to read 
with his coffee, the news columns have shown some revolutionary 
tendencies within the last few years. Mrs. Reid is an ardent Republi- 
can but she has always been interested in La Follette liberalism, a 
taste carried over from her Wisconsin days. She was bom in Apple- 
ton, Wisconsin, the youngest of a large family. She was educated at 
a boarding school in Fond du Lac, and at Barnard, which she entered 
when she was sixteen. She majored in Greek but soon discovered in 
herself a deep interest in science. To this day popular science is one 
of her hobbies. 

She was graduated when she was twenty and became social secre- 
tary to Mrs. Whitelaw Reid. She held this post for eight years, 
spending most of her time in London where Whitelaw Reid was 
Ambassador at the Court of St. James’s. In 19 11 she was married to 
Ogden Reid in Racine, Wisconsin. He had then been on the paper 
for three years, training as a reporter, copy reader and editorial 
writer, before becoming editor. 

For the next seven years Mrs. Reid devoted herself to her home 
and the suffrage campaign. In 1917 she was appointed treasurer of 
the New York State Woman’s Suffrage party and she helped to 
raise $500,000 for the cause. When the vote was won she decided 
to go into newspaper work. In the autumn of 1918 she became an 
advertising solicitor for the Tribune. Three months later she headed 
the department and in 1922 she became vice-president of the paper. 

At first the heads of large firms welcomed Mrs. Ogden Reid on 
the strength of her name when she called to see them. Doors opened 
automatically. But those who thought it a mere whim on her part 
soon had their eyes opened. They saw that she meant business. She 
talked convincingly. She showed close knowledge of the field. She 
drew in accounts. Although she had entered the newspaper world in 



In Command 137 

the most unostentatious way, it soon became known along Park Row 
that Helen Rogers Reid was becoming a power on the paper. 

The Tribune was not the flourishing organization then that it is 
to-day. The city room downtown was old and cluttered, a contrast 
to the shining efficiency of the new plant uptown. The desks were 
battered, the typewriters were jittery, but the atmosphere was warm 
and friendly. It was the newspaper man’s idea of a city room. But 
the paper lagged in advertising. Mrs. Reid set out to build up this 
department. In five years’ time the advertising went up from 4,170,- 
812 to 11,203,082 lines. She lured in errant accounts and put over a 
particularly smart stroke in getting Gimbel’s advertising back, after 
it had been lost during the Tribune's campaign against dubious ad- 
vertising. In 1918 the circulation of the paper was 95,000. It increased 
substantially with the purchase of the Herald , and went on from that 
point. Now it is 320,000 on weekdays and 450,000 on Sundays. 

Her success was so conspicuous that Mrs. Reid became an impor- 
tant figure in advertising before she had been at it for any length of 
time. To-day she has the respect of her competitors and the ad- 
miration of the advertisers with whom she deals. She goes right 
after business with a direct and conclusive touch. When she sees an 
advertisement in another paper that she thinks the Herald Tribune 
ought to have, she gets on the telephone or makes a personal call 
and argues the matter out with the advertiser. She does not always 
get the business but she invariably has a hearing. 

This is the side of newspaper work that interests her most. She 
believes that people read advertising as they do news. But she is 
alive to the other aspects of newspaper work, thinks it the most 
fascinating profession in the world, and cannot understand why 
women do not branch out more than they do in the different de- 
partments. Discussing their place in journalism in a speech, she said: 

There are still a lot of prejudices against newspaper women 
and the future is not a rosy one, but newspapers are an all round 
institution and need the woman’s point of view. On the busi- 
ness side there are very great opportunities because eighty per 
cent of all the advertising is calculated to appeal to women. 
Even the mechanical side offers some very real chances with its 
need for proofreaders and linotypers. . . . 

One real trouble with women is that they haven’t projected 
their imaginations toward higher positions. Of course they feel 
a certain satisfaction in helping others but they should acquire 
more self-confidence and take more pleasure in what they 
themselves can do. 

Ability is still rated as a natural masculine characteristic and 
is considered the exception among women. A woman should 



138 Ladies of the Press 

work harder to establish the idea that a good piece of work is 

only a normal piece of work. . . . 

Mrs. Reid is a genuine and consistent feminist, both in theory 
and in fact. She believes in the minor manifestations as well as the 
major ones. No post is too big for a capable woman, in her opinion. 
She advocates the modem trinity of a job, a husband and children. 
She asks no special favors fr6m the moment she steps into the office. 
She prefers the men on the staff not to take off their hats when 
they ride in elevators with her. She does not like them to get up 
when she appears. She wants to work with them on an absolutely 
even basis. 

Mrs. Reid does not attend the editorial conferences, but she is in 
close touch with everything that pertains to the news and when a 
big story is breaking she haunts the city room. She is interested 
in stories that record the advance of women in any field. She has 
an eye for scientific news and anything relating to medicine or 
nursing. But she is much more likely to suggest an editorial than a 
story for the news columns. She watches the society page closely. 
The personal column of the Herald Tribune is the hardest to crash 
in the country. None but a Social Register name ever appears in it. 

Mrs. Reid is progressive, yet sticks to the family and political 
traditions of the paper. She has a sure touch for details as well as a 
broad grasp of the larger issues. She never asks anyone to do any- 
thing that she wouldn’t do herself. She works laboriously over mat- 
ters that interest her, returning to the office and pitching in until 
all hours of the night. When the Tribune bought the Herald in 
1924 she did much of the detailed work connected with the nego- 
tiations. Mr. Munsey set out to buy the Tribune but she opposed this 
from the start. Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, who wielded great power in 
the paper for many years and was happy to see her daughter-in-law 
occupying an executive post, was not completely convinced of the 
wisdom of buying the Herald but Mrs. Ogden Reid was never in 
any doubt about it. She usually favors the bold and daring course, 
for she is a liberal at heart. 

Mrs. Reid’s office in the advertising department closely resembles 
Mr. Reid’s on the editorial floor. A picture of Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, 
whom she greatly loved and admired, hangs above her desk. There 
are no fancy touches about her surroundings and she is always 
accessible to her staff. At her right hand is Mrs. Helen Leavitt, a 
sagacious campaigner of the suffrage days, who is assistant adver- 
tising director of the paper and has considerable influence. She is 
authorized to make decisions after six o’clock if Mrs. Reid has left 
for the day, so that many of the advertising problems are put up to 
her when the deadline is near at hand. Mrs. Leavitt understands the 



In Command 139 

business end of the paper and works with great discretion. Mrs. 
Reid has complete confidence in her judgment and gives her plenty 
of leeway. Mrs. Leavitt’s daughter, Martha, does features for the 
Sunday paper. 

Mr. and Mrs. Reid give women an even chance throughout the or- 
ganization. No Sunday magazine editor in the country has more 
power than Mrs. William Brown Meloney, and the talented Irita 
Van Doren is left in absolute charge of “Books.” Elsa Lang func- 
tions with skill in the promotion department and there are a num- 
ber of women advertising solicitors working under Mrs. Reid’s own 
direction. The crossword puzzle department is admirably handled 
by a woman, Mrs. Dorothy Kiggins. 

The paper has real fascination for Mrs. Reid. She carries its prob- 
lems home with her at night, and she and Mr. Reid reach most of 
their important decisions away from the office. But she is modest 
about her accomplishments. She never gives an interview. She rarely 
talks about herself, always about the paper. In recent years she has 
made a number of speeches but she avoids publicity whenever pos- 
sible. She prefers to remain anonymous. 

She has some of Mr. Munsey’s passion for a clean and tidy news- 
paper office, although it does not extend to a ban on smoking. 
When the new plant was opened uptown, the editorial room had all 
the air of a large business office. Every desk had an ash tray and a 
wastebasket. These were alarming manifestations at first to the un- 
tidy scribes from Park Row, but soon they got used to knocking 
off ashes in the proper place, instead of letting their cigarettes 
bum holes in their desks. They also got into the habit of hanging 
up their coats and hats, leaving the office looking rather prim. 

Mrs. Reid is ready to challenge the judgment of the men execu- 
tives on anything in which she thoroughly believes. She was largely 
responsible for Walter Lippmann being brought into the organiza- 
tion. She backed F.P.A. when he refused to take the salary cut im- 
posed on him. She doesn’t believe in letting the talented slip away. 

One of her chief interests in the paper is the domestic science 
institute, which has grown from women’s page beginnings into a 
housekeeping organization of no mean order. Its tested recipes are 
models of their kind. Another of her pet interests is the Fresh Air 
Fund, which sends 16,000 children to the country every summer. 
She believes that the ideal newspaper reaches the whole family; 
therefore she has favored the re-introduction of features long 
dropped from the metropolitan morning paper. Food news, fashions 
and bedtime stories all appear in the daily issues. She maintains that 
since women do eighty per cent of the nation’s buying, the news- 
papers should encourage their patronage. 



140 Ladies of the Press 

Mrs. Reid is proud of the Herald Tribune and all its functionings 
as a newspaper. She and Mr. Reid frequently bring guests in after 
the theater or dinner to show them the paper being run off the 
presses. King Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, made one of 
these tours; so did the King and Queen of Siam when they stayed 
at Ophir Hall. Like her husband, Mrs. Reid understands every step 
of the mechanical processes, knows most of the linotypers by their 
first names and never forgets those who have been in the organiza- 
tion for a long time. 

In November, 1935, she received the American Woman’s Asso- 
ciation award for eminent achievement and a month later Mrs. 
Carrie Chapman Catt included her in her annual list of the nation’s 
ten outstanding women. She has been the recipient of honorary 
degrees at various universities. 

In spite of her preoccupation with the paper, Mrs. Reid manages 
to live the life of a woman without business responsibilities. She 
goes in moderately for social interchange but is more interested in 
people who do things than in those who simply live for the social 
round. She has two sons, Whitelaw, now about to get his first taste 
of journalism, and Ogden Rogers Reid, commonly known as 
“Brownie.” Her only daughter, Betty, died in 1925 at the age of nine. 

The Reid family have several homes and they take brief holidays 
but never leave the paper for long. In town they live in the former 
Doherty house at 15 East Eighty-fourth Street. Part of the year 
they spend at Ophir Farm, their country home at the gates of Ophir 
Hall, which was Mrs. Whitelaw Reid’s estate. They pass a month 
every year at their camp in the Adirondacks and a month in Florida 
in winter, but Mrs. Reid hurries to New York at a moment’s notice 
if anything comes up at the office that requires her attention. 

She manages to spend a good deal of time with her children and 
follows all their interests with the most intense curiosity and de- 
light. She plays tennis, swims, rides, skates and helps to take her 
canoe over the “seven carries” at their camp in the Adirondacks, 
just like her sons. She has enormous vitality and likes the same qual- 
ity in other people. She cannot understand a lack of ambition. She 
goes to the theater often, and occasionally occupies the family box 
at the Metropolitan. In recent years she has attended most of the 
big prize fights and she sits in at the Republican conventions 
with Mr. Reid, but she is not fond of talk. She is essentially a 
woman of action. She is quite small, her features are piquant, her 
eyes have an extraordinarily penetrating quality. They are a clear 
gray with a flicker of fire -in the pupils. She is always beautifully 
turned out and is not so engrossed in business that she cannot give 



In Command 141 

rime to her clothes. But no social engagement is ever allowed to 
impinge on her work. She follows it like a religion. 

Her voice is soft and slow. It has a subtly persuasive quality. She 
never raises it to make a point. But she speaks gracefully in public. 
In dealing with people she is thoughtful, perceptive and intensely 
curious about their motives. She likes to see what makes the wheels 
go round. 

When she and Mrs. Meloney stand together on the platform at 
the Herald Tribune's Forum on Current Problems, they represent 
plenty of dynamic force between them. They are breath-taking 
ladies of the press, somewhat akin in quality, which may explain 
the deep friendship that exists between them. Sometimes they dis- 
agree. Both are strong-minded, and passionate in their convictions. 
But each respects the other. 

Mrs. Meloney is one of the more remarkable newspaper women 
of her generation. She has a wide acquaintance among all sorts of 
citizens— Presidents, scientists, statesmen, writers and artists. She 
brought Madame Curie to America and raised the fund for her 
radium. Owen D. Young is one of her closest friends. She was a 
favored guest at the White House during the Hoover term. She 
called on Mussolini during a trip abroad in the summer of 1935 and 
the interview she had with him made the front page of her paper. 

She worships names. She makes forays on Europe and rounds up 
manuscripts of august authorship. When the United Newspaper 
Magazine Corporation was formed to launch This Week, which 
first came out in February, 1935, with a string of twenty-one metro- 
politan papers, Mrs. Meloney was the person selected to edit the 
magazine. Mary Day Winn, another capable newspaper woman, is 
her chief assistant. 

While Mrs. Meloney was editing the Delineator she followed 
the work of newspaper writers closely, searching for fresh creative 
talent. She came to the conclusion then that the Sunday papers were 
on the wrong track in running stories in their magazine sections 
turned out by staff men to augment their salaries. She saw no reason 
why Sunday editors should not enlist the services of writers and 
artists of big reputation. 

Mrs. Meloney was challenged to demonstrate her views when she 
joined the staff of the Herald Tribune . She went after acknowledged 
talent with swiftness and success. She turned out a new kind of 
newspaper magazine. Executives looked a little dazed when the bills 
came in, but the magazine flourished and so did Mrs. Meloney. She 
got G. K. Chesterton, P. G. Wodehouse, Arnold Bennett and other 
stars of the same magnitude to write for her magazine, until it some- 



142 Ladies of the Press 

times suggested an international gathering of the celestials. It was not 
always their finest stuff but their names carried it along. 

Science, politics, economics, dogs, cats, babies, nature, literature, 
all had their run. Balancing the intellectual fare was a thoroughly 
sound domestic science section that won the approbation of house- 
wives. Her experience with women’s magazines had taught her that 
food was a subject of primary interest to the reader. She estimated 
that more than 7,000,000 persons had to be fed in New York every 
day and that therefore food news was important news. So she con- 
centrated on the institute, extended its functions, appointed a com- 
mittee of important names to back it up, and made its kitchens and 
laboratory show-rooms for visitors to the Herald Tribune building. 
She devoted plenty of space to fashions, beauty, home furnishings, 
gardening, etiquette, cooking and antiques. She went in for specialists 
of all kinds and had a daily check kept on the trends of the food 
market. 

In 1930 Mrs. Meloney launched her annual forum which mush- 
roomed at once to astonishing proportions. With impartiality she 
got Herbert Hoover to open one of the annual conferences and 
Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt to speak at another. She went after 
celebrities of the first rank. Crowds now storm the forum. It is one 
of the brightest stunts a newspaper has put across. Monica Walsh, 
who did promotional work on the women’s clubs, had much to do 
with initiating the idea. Mrs. Meloney directs it with good general- 
ship. She is tiny, sprightly, full of humor and dash. Her entire career 
has been one of battles and triumphs. She can fight to a finish, and 
she sometimes has to, in order to get her way. 

Although she was in the magazine field for years before she joined 
the staff of the Herald Tribune , she was doing newspaper work at 
the beginning of the century. As Marie Mattingly, she fared forth 
to find a newspaper job in Washington at the age of seventeen. She 
got the position but lost it at once. She was assigned to meet a 
Senator in the Congressional Library for an interview, but she be- 
came so absorbed in a collection of rare music that she forgot her 
appointment, and when she came out of her stupor she couldn’t find 
him. 

Scott Bone, of the Post , fired her. “If you love music that much,” 
he told her, “you will never make a good reporter. Your heart 
isn’t in it.” 

But Admiral Dewey unwittingly restored her to favor one No- 
vember day in 1899. She was in St. Paul’s, where she sang in the 
choir, when she was asked if she wanted to be present at an histori- 
cal event. The Admiral was being married quietly in the rectory 
that day. She hurried to the Post. 



In Command 143 

“I’ve got a good story for you,” she said to Mr. Bone. 

“Yes?” said Mr. Bone skeptically. “What is it?” 

“Tell me first— do I get my job back?” 

She covered the wedding and was taken back on the staff. Miss 
Mattingly also acted as correspondent for the Denver Post while she 
was in Washington and did some work for the New York World. 
She wrote bright sketches of political celebrities and was an animated 
figure in the Press Gallery when the sight of a woman there was 
still astonishing. She did feature stories on the national conventions, 
and got so exhausted with her activities for the three papers that 
she had to go to Arizona for a rest. 

When she returned she tried New York. The World assigned 
her to interview Mark Twain. He was a friend of her father’s and 
he talked to her freely. Her next assignment was a stunt and one 
which she disliked, so she resigned. Then she landed on the 
Herald and worked for the paper for three months. Her next move 
was to the Sun , which was notoriously averse to women. She sub- 
mitted all kinds of stories on space. The first one accepted was an 
interview with an astronomer who had returned with a new chart 
of the southern skies. Still she did not get on the staff. 

Then she offered to substitute for Sun reporters on church news. 
Alexander Dowie, the evangelist from Zion City, was preaching at 
Madison Square Garden. She wrote stories about him which were 
accepted, but the Sun promptly sent out a star man to follow up 
the assignment. One night he got drunk and she wrote his piece for 
him. At last the city editor was persuaded that she not only was a 
good reporter but a good scout into the bargain and he put her on 
salary. 

This was in 1901. After four years on the Sun she married Wil- 
liam B. Meloney and was out of newspaper work for nine years, 
bringing up a son. She returned to the writing world in 1914 as 
editor of Womans Magazine. She puffed life into it when it seemed 
to be dying. Even then her gift for lassoing celebrities was ap- 
parent. She got Theodore Roosevelt to write for the magazine in 
his characteristically frank vein. From 19 17- 1920 she was associate 
editor of Everybody's. In 1920 she became editor of the Delineator. 
In the following year she organized the Better Homes movement 
which later spread far and wide. Herbert Hoover was the first presi- 
dent when it was launched. 

Mrs. Meloney is almost as well known in Europe as in this coun- 
try. She has been decorated both by the French and Belgian Gov- 
ernments. She backed the Junior Red Cross and did relief work for 
European children during the war. She has a hundred different 



144 Ladies of the Press 

interests and gets about where things are stirring. She knows celebri- 
ties of all kinds and her Kentucky eggnog parties in her penthouse 
at the Hotel des Artistes are famous. 

Mrs. Meloney often gives an excellent news tip to the city desk, 
for her reportorial instincts are strong. But her newspaper work is 
only one part of her dynamic existence. To her colleagues she is 
known as “Missie.” She has a slightly elfin air, as if she were always 
laughing up her sleeve. The chances are that she is. 



I 145 ] 


Chapter XIII 

THE NEW YORK TIMES 


D uring the brief period that John Bigelow was editor-in- 
chief of the New York Times he was astonished to see a 
huge girl in Irish tweeds glowering down at him over his 
desk one day. She had a letter of introduction in her hand and she 
wanted a job. 

“The only vacant post we have is livestock reporter,” he told her. 
“I can fill it,” said the odd apparition. “Why not?” 

“All right, try,” said Mr. Bigelow, after she had talked him down 
with a persuasive Irish tongue. 

She was Midy Morgan, one of the most extraordinary figures 
that ever strode through a newspaper office. She became New York’s 
one woman livestock reporter and was on the Times from 1869 
until her death in 1892. 

Midy was a rare girl, eccentric in appearance, sound at her work. 
She soon became well known at the cattle yards, horse shows and 
race courses. She was six feet two, and swung along with tre- 
mendous momentum, knocking down anything that got in her way. 
She wore high-laced boots for ordinary jobs and hip-length rubber 
waders on stormy days. She walked with a limp which she got when 
her foot was crushed by a horse. Her hair was bunched in a water- 
fall and she carried a six-shooter. She went in for rough tweeds and 
her hats were terrific. 

Her handwriting was so bad that her copy was always sent to 
the same compositors— men who had become accustomed to its 
peculiarities. But what Midy had to say was worth the trouble. No 
one excelled her in her own department. All the horse breeders got 
to know her and valued her advice, which she usually gave them in 
harsh phrases uttered in a melodious voice. General Ulysses S. Grant 
sought her opinion on horses. King Victor Emmanuel of Italy com- 
missioned her to buy Irish mares for his stables. She was the friend 
of Commodore Vanderbilt, Chauncey M. Depew and many of the 
better known men about town. They respected Midy as a person 
and an expert. She was stalwart, honest and plodding. Her passion 



146 Ladies of the Press 

for accuracy exceeded all bounds. Often she rose before dawn to 
count the cattle cars as they lay in railway sidings at Hoboken and 
was perturbed for a week if she found herself one figure out. 

She adopted the name Midy for newspaper purposes. Her own 
name was Maria Morgan and she was bom in 1828 on an estate near 
Cork, the daughter of Anthony Morgan, a landed proprietor. She 
grew up with horses around her and hunted almost as soon as she 
could read. Before she was fourteen she knew all about farming and 
breeding. She was as expert at languages as at taking a jump on a 
hunter. 

When her father died in 1865 nearly all of the family property 
went to the eldest son, and Midy left for Italy with her mother and 
sister. For the next two years she lived in Rome, fox hunting on the 
campdgna , and reading Byron, who was then the rage. She went on 
to Florence in the spring of 1867 and there met Baron Ricasoli, 
Prime Minister of Italy, who arranged that she should be presented 
to the King. “I am rather more than three parts crazed on the sub- 
ject of horseflesh, and I naturally wished to be presented to King 
Victor Emmanuel, who is doubtless the most sporting crowned head 
in Europe,” said Midy at the time. 

The King was impressed with her knowledge of horses. He 
showed her his stables and commissioned her to go to Ireland to 
make purchases for him. She left at once for her native land and did 
some careful buying. Then she started out with her six mares, which 
she called her countrywomen, for the return trip to Italy. This be- 
came something of a pilgrimage. 

I knew we had thirty-two changes to make, from rail to 
steamer, from steamer to rail, and so on, diversified by having 
to cross Mount Cenis on foot, then rail again until we reached 
the city of Flowers. I thought if these doings are to continue, 
even if I get clear out of the United Kingdom without being 
indicted for manslaughter, how in the name of everything that 
is sporting am I to get these wild beasts through France, where 
not a mortal being knows a horse’s head from his tail, or which 
side or end of him ought to be uppermost? I then recollected 
that Hannibal had crossed the Alps, as also in later days had 
Alfieri; that both had had horses in their train, though the 
Italian bitterly complained how his English thoroughbreds suf- 
fered, and I cheered up. 

The mountain trip was trying, however, and as they neared Flor- 
ence the box cars were partially burned. But Midy turned up with 
all the mares in good condition and delivered them to the King. He 
approved of her choice and gave her a double-case hunting watch 
with his initials encrusted in diamonds, a token of his gratitude. 



The New York Times 147 

After she came to America she kept it in a safe deposit vault, but 
when the King died Midy got it out, had a mourning chain made 
to match and wore it for a year. Then she put it back in the bank. 

She landed in this country on June 30, 1869, with letters of intro- 
duction from American friends in Italy to Henry J. Raymond of 
the Times , and Horace Greeley. Mr. Raymond had died shortly 
before her arrival and she and Mr. Greeley did not hit it off. Midy 
undoubtedly was a strange spectacle for any editor to take to on 
sight. Later the Tribune , as well as the Times , was to run some of 
her excellent work, but at the moment the door was not open to her. 

Midy thought America a hostile country. People stared at her in 
the streets. It was a change from Italy, where her mission for the 
King had made her a social pet. However, she wasn’t dismayed. She 
went to work as a chambermaid in the Stevens House in Boston, 
while she looked about for something that would suit her rather 
specialized talents. In July Leonard Jerome gave her a letter of 
introduction to Manton Marble of the World, who thought Midy 
a comic figure, but sent her to Saratoga as special correspondent to 
cover the races. 

Her first story was a thundering blast about the poor hotel ac- 
commodations at Saratoga. Having basked in the splendors of France 
and Italy, she didn’t think well of the racing quarters of America. 
But before the races were over, she had demonstrated that she knew 
horses. On her return she went to the Times, able now to show 
some of her work. It was then that she stampeded Mr. Bigelow into 
giving her the unpromising livestock job. 

She soon showed that she could cope with it, and in no mean way. 
She got to know every cattle breeder of prominence in the country 
and qualified personally as a sound judge of cattle. She was expert 
on the fine points of a dog and at a pinch would cover a cat show, 
although the cat was the only quadruped in which she had no faith. 
Few could match her on horses. Midy sat on fences with the ex- 
perts and brought her trained eye to bear on the animals parading 
past. She preferred horse races to market reports, but was as careful 
of her lists as the statisticians are to-day of their Stock Exchange 
tables. It was all original research, without any of the ready aids of 
later years. No one thought of having lists prepared for the use of a 
reporter. Midy tramped miles over the marshes to get her facts and 
check on her figures. She got up at unearthly hours and spared her- 
self nothing. 

At first the breeders looked with amazement at this huge awk- 
ward girl who went about chewing straws, but after watching her 
work they doffed their hats to her. It was much the same in her 
office. When she showed up she stamped through the city room 



148 Ladies of the Press 

like a tornado, wrote her horrible-looking copy and had little to 
say. She was never communicative with her colleagues. Most of 
them thought that Midy lived in the cattle yards. They could not 
imagine her in a home. But she had some thwarted domestic im- 
pulses. Soon after coming to America she adopted a German youth. 
When he decided to marry, Midy, in a great rage, cast him off and 
never saw him again. 

She had a tidy fortune tucked away in the bank but she didn’t 
believe in splash. Although she bet moderately, she was cautious 
about her finances. Soon after she landed in America Commodore 
Vanderbilt invested such money as she had in New York Central 
securities. She opened deposits with various savings banks around 
New York, bought some property on Staten Island, and, as time 
went on, rolled up a substantial sum for her old age. 

During the last seven years of her life she was having a fine house 
built for herself on this piece of land. But she would have nothing 
to do with builders or architects, so the work dragged on year after 
year and she did not live long enough to occupy it. She had her 
own idea of what a house should be like, and was sure she could 
direct things herself. This led to trouble with workmen and a 
strange hodgepodge of operations. Midy soon saw that some of her 
plans were impractical, but she had a vision of the perfect house and 
nothing could shake her in her determination to go on with it in her 
own way. It was quite as much of a spectacle as Midy herself. People 
traveled distances to stare at her lopsided citadel. It was three stories 
high and each floor was a huge room. The ground floor was paneled 
in California redwood. The second floor was finished in fine woods 
brought from different parts of the world. The upper floor was 
done in ash. The walls and ceiling of the extension dining-room 
were covered entirely with thousands of tinted sea-shells. Her sister, 
Jane, who had studied art in Florence, did the decoration. The house 
was fire-proof, the bathroom equipment was much ahead of the 
time, and every window had iron bars. 

It was Midy’s plan to retire to this home when she could no 
longer get up at dawn and scramble through the cattle yards. She 
had assembled furniture from different parts of Europe to fill the 
four rooms and create the atmosphere that she fancied for her old 
age. But she always put off the day of leisure, and it came too late. 
While all this was going on, she lived in a barren room in the rail- 
way station at Robinvale, New Jersey, where she worked as station 
agent, selling tickets intermittently and employing a woman to sub- 
stitute for her while she did her newspaper work. Thus she had 
free rent and passes on the railroad and that meant much to the 
thrifty Midy. 



The New York Times 149 

But the house on Staten Island was never finished and her only 
home until her death was the dreary station. She left $100,000 and 
willed some fine jewelry to the Metropolitan Museum, one of the 
pieces being King Victor’s watch, which she had treasured above 
all her possessions. 

Her death was the indirect result of a fall she had on the icy 
stockyards in Jersey City in the spring of 1891. She went back to 
work but was never wholly well again. In less than a year she was 
taken to a hospital with dropsy and had two operations in quick 
succession. She died on June 1, 1892, and was buried from the Little 
Church Around the Corner. 

During the last eighteen years of her life she had made three trips 
to Europe. The first time, she traveled on a cattle boat. She was 
outraged over the treatment the animals received and on her return 
wrote a series of articles that resulted in improved methods of 
handling cattle at sea. She campaigned against various stockyard 
abuses and was always on the lookout for the interests of the ani- 
mals. 

There never has been another newspaper woman quite like Midy 
Morgan. She is so little remembered in New York newspaper circles 
that her name falls on the ear with unfamiliarity. Yet in her way 
she was one of the distinctive newspaper women of the century. 

In Midy’s day the columns of the Times were as open to the 
space contributions of the woman correspondent as any paper in 
town. But after her death no disposition was shown to welcome a 
successor. Mr. Ochs felt about women on the staff as he did about 
features. They were not part of his conception of the perfect paper. 
Yet Mary Taft found her way into the city room in the late nineties. 

Years later when a young woman, bitten with the desire to write 
for a paper, approached Mr. Ochs and asked him for a job, he told 
her at once that the Times did not take women on the city staff. 

“You have Miss Taft,” the suppliant pointed out. 

“Oh, yes,” Mr. Ochs admitted. “But Miss Taft was practically 
bom here.” 

The legend that the Times would have no women in the city 
room has always been widespread in journalistic circles. Job seekers 
knowing the ropes felt it was hopeless to try their luck at the gates 
of the leading paper in the country. It was the last citadel. Long 
after the Associated Press had welcomed women, the Times still re- 
garded them with suspicion. Yet in actual fact, the paper had three 
women over a period of years within call of the city desk— Mary 
Taft, Jane Grant and Rachel K. McDowell. And Mr. Van Anda’s 
night secretary, Ethel Walton Everett, also contributed to the news 
columns at times. But their work was more or less departmentalized. 



150 Ladies of the Press 

They never went out on murders or fires, although on isolated 
occasions they landed on the front page. 

It was not until the summer of 1934 that the barriers were openly 
let down and Nancy Hale, the gifted short story writer and de- 
scendant of Nathan Hale, was welcomed into the city room. By 
this time Miss Taft and Miss Grant had retired from active news- 
paper work, and Miss McDowell had a private office, away from 
the stir of the city room. Miss Hale stayed for a few months only, 
then went back to writing fiction. She was followed by Kathleen 
McLaughlin, an experienced newspaper woman from Chicago, who 
arrived at a propitious moment and got the much-coveted job of 
being the only woman reporter on the general news staff. But the 
crowning touch for women, so far as the Times is concerned, was 
reached in the summer of 1936 when Anne O’Hare McCormick 
was appointed a member of the editorial council— a real landmark 
for women in journalism. 

Miss Taft landed on the paper in the lavender age chiefly by her 
own enterprise. Her shy manner concealed a hardy spirit. She was 
one of the members of the Rainy Daisy Club, which boldly launched 
short skirts for wet days at a time when braided hems trailing in 
the dirt were the hallmark of that mysterious creature known as a 
lady. The Rainy Daisy girls thought it was nonsense to pick up the 
dust. By the time she had allied herself with this brigade and shied 
from the stones thrown by little boys and the jeers of street loafers, 
Miss Taft thought nothing of storming the Times . She submitted 
some paragraphs to Mrs. Philip Welch, who ran a discreet column 
on women’s doings in an obscure part of the paper. Mrs. Welch ac- 
cepted them but assured her that she was a foolish girl to have any 
serious ambitions about the Times, for it was a journal that never 
would take a woman on the staff. 

But Miss Taft, a handsome girl with plenty of spirit, continued to 
sit about in the waiting room, looking patient and biding her time. 
She got her first innings when the Professional Women’s League 
was formed. Having a theatrical membership, it was much less 
averse to publicity than the Sorosis Club, which abhorred being 
mentioned in the press. Miss Taft joined the livelier organization 
and proceeded to pepper the Times and the Tribune with newsy 
paragraphs which, much to her surprise, they seemed to welcome. 

She wrote her items on elevated trains, in the public parks or at 
home. She had no competition and did quite well. When her work 
for the two papers began to conflict, she devoted herself exclusively 
to the Times. The day dawned when she could walk right into the 
city room and be welcomed by the city editor. He beamed on her 



The New York Times 15 1 

and actually gave her assignments. He even let her sit at a desk. 
But his smiles faded when her space began to run up to more than 
* 3 ° a week. The day came when his assistant took her aside and said 
that the paper would have to dispense with her expensive services, 
unless she would join the regular staff at $19 a week. 

A staff post on the Times ? Miss Taft almost swooned with joy. 
She would have said yes at any price. For the next two decades she 
did good work for the paper. She followed women’s activities, did 
art criticism and made herself generally useful. But she felt the 
binding strings of prejudice against the woman reporter. She cov- 
ered the suffrage activities until they became front-page news. 
Then a man was assigned to take over— the usual fate of the woman 
reporter until recent years. The suffrage leaders were so annoyed by 
this discrimination and the anti-feminist attitude of the Times that 
they threatened to boycott the paper. But in the end they accepted 
a policy that seemed to be the publisher’s business rather than theirs. 

Soon after her retirement from the paper Miss Taft married 
Robert Welch, a colleague who had worked with her for many 
years on the Times . They settled at first on the Riviera, then re- 
turned to America. She is now a widow and lives at Marblehead, 
Massachusetts. 

Shortly before the war Jane Grant, fresh from Kansas, landed on 
the staff with little difficulty. She had no thought of being a re- 
porter. She was studying singing and wanted something to do on 
the side. Florence Williams, for years Mr. Van Anda’s secretary, 
introduced Miss Grant to her employer. He said that he would give 
her a post in the society department as a stenographer, but he 
made the point that she must not expect advancement. He knew 
that the bright girls who get into the departments of a newspaper 
are apt to cast longing eyes on the city staff. Some of the foremost 
newspaper women in the country have started in this way. 

Miss Grant made the transfer with astonishing speed. Her knowl- 
edge of stenography was meager, but she saw the exciting possi- 
bilities of covering news. The society editor sent her out on a few 
assignments. The first was to cover a dinner 
Club. When she arrived she found that it was 
However, the hosts were cordial to her anj 
office laden down with flowers. She soon 
who was then city editor, to give her a 
This meant interviews, conventions, club I 
and anything that goes on under the spre 
York hotel world. 

When America entered the war she took 
to France with the Y.M.C.A. to sing for the 



152 Ladies of the Press 

she was taken back on the staff as a general reporter, and the sphere 
of her work widened. Like Miss Taft, she pioneered on the feminist 
side. She was one of the founders of the Lucy Stone League. 

Miss Grant had an active hand in launching The New Yorker. 
The magazine grew out of endless talk, dating back to the war days 
when she sat in cafes in Paris with Harold Ross, Alexander Wooll- 
cott, F.P.A., Adolph Ochs, 2d, and John T. Winterich, and they all 
discussed what they would do when the war was over. At that time 
they were preoccupied with the Stars and Stripes. 

After her marriage to Harold Ross, Miss Grant and he worked on 
several ideas, which found their final fusion in The New Yorker . 
Although they are now divorced, she is still a stockholder in the 
magazine. Few newspaper women have a wider acquaintance among 
the town’s celebrities than Miss Grant. She and her husband shared 
a house for a time with Mr. Woollcott, where the sparkling wits 
used to gather. Since retiring from the Times because of ill health, 
she has traveled extensively and done magazine and radio work. 

This left Miss McDowell the sole remaining member of the old 
feminine guard on the paper. It is a legend in New York newspaper 
circles that a City News man, when assigned to cover a religious 
story of any kind, always leaves his office with the warning: “If you 
see Rachel McDowell there, take everything, even the Bishop’s 
hat.” There is justice in this, for Miss McDowell cannot be touched 
in her field. She knows the clergy of every denomination— their 
ritual, their private and public tastes, what they are likely to do, 
what they never would do. No churchman would deny that she 
has a wider acquaintance among the clergy than any other person 
in New York. 

Her black-garbed figure, large and cheerful, is usually in evidence 
at any religious gathering of consequence. Time and again she has 
brought in exclusive stories of real importance to her paper. Al- 
though religious herself, and the founder of an anti-profanity so- 
ciety in the Times office, she never lets her convictions sway her 
honest news sense. She is wary of propaganda and the blandish- 
ments of churchmen too eager to get their oratory into print when 
it has no news value. She understands to the full that editors— and 
many of them, the Godless wretches, set ministers high among the 
liars— print religious stories only when they are news. Sometimes 
she has ructions with the churchmen, for she is always alert where 
the interests of her paper are concerned. Her work is her life. She 
makes her home in a lively hotel near Times Square because it is 
only a step from her office, and she finds it as easy to speak to her 
ecclesiastical friends on the telephone from this worldly paradise as 
anywhere else. 



The New York Times 153 

She goes to church to enjoy the sermons as well as to report 
them, and she plays no favorites. In the summer of 1935 she went to 
Rome and had a special audience with the Pope at his summer resi- 
dence, Castel Gandolfo, receiving his blessing. On her return she 
wrote an enthusiastic story about her pilgrimage for the Catholic 
News . She was deluged with letters. Time took up her story and a 
lively controversy raged over such uncommon devotion for the 
Pope on the part of an acknowledged Presbyterian. Some of her 
own flock condemned her for her adoration. Others applauded her 
fervor. Miss McDowell found to her surprise that she had stirred up 
quite an ecclesiastical tempest. 

It was her own idea to do religious news and she has been respon- 
sible for all the New York papers giving more space to the churches. 
She started on the Herald , where she built up such an excellent de- 
partment that when Mr. Munsey bought the paper, both the Times 
and the Sun sought her services. When she first began writing for 
Mr. Bennett’s vivacious journal it was emerging from the long liti- 
gation over its so-called red light columns, Dr. Charles H. Parkhqrst 
having led the fight against them. 

Mr. Bennett had a hard and fast rule that Dr. Parkhurst’s name 
was not to be mentioned in his paper. As he was the most distin- 
guished minister in New York at the time, Miss McDowell had to 
run her religious department with Hamlet left out of the play. Mr. 
Bennett had so many don’ts for Herald employees that it was difficult 
for his editors to get out the paper without omitting news or inciting 
his ire. 

In view of his attitude, it was considered quite an innovation when 
Miss McDowell was allowed to launch a weekly page of church 
news. She came from Newark and had no direct knowledge of the 
field. Her first move was to study the list of clergymen in the 
Brooklyn Eagle Almanac. The Herald sent out a form letter an- 
nouncing her connection with the paper and asking for weekly 
bulletins of church news. The clergy leaped at this open door. News 
poured in. Every reporter knows that the preacher ranks next to the 
actor in courting publicity, and often outstrips him. 

Miss McDowell set out to round up the leading clergymen. She 
was struck at once by the fact that New York had 2,000,000 Catho- 
lics, so she tackled St. Patrick’s Cathedral first. She was received by 
Monsignor Michael J. Lavelle, now one of her staunchest friends. 
But he regarded her with suspicion twenty-seven years ago. 

He looked at her card and then at her. “Are you a Catholic?” he 
asked. 

“No, sir,” said Miss McDowell meekly. 



154 Ladies of the Press 

“Then it’s utterly useless for you to try to report Catholic news,” 
he told her. 

He waved his hand in dismissal but Miss McDowell stood her 
ground long enough to ask him how she should know what was 
going on in the Catholic Church. 

“You can buy the Catholic News at any general newsstand every 
week,” he said. 

This frosty reception was salutary. Miss McDowell made up her 
mind that she would prove him wrong. As time went on he con- 
ceded his mistake. She went out and bought the Catholic News . 
She became an authority on Catholic as well as Protestant church 
news. Her editors gave her all the latitude she wanted. It was easy 
enough to fill her page with routine news, but when she had this in 
hand, Miss McDowell did not confine herself to the offerings of the 
clergy. Like all good departmental reporters, she went to original 
sources and dug up real news. She made contacts that became in- 
valuable in after years. 

One of her earliest church friends was Bishop David H. Greer. 
She soon found that he sincerely disliked publicity. He said to her 
once: “I could eat my breakfast better on a Monday morning if I 
knew I was not in the newspaper.” 

The Bishop concerned himself with Miss McDowell’s soul. On one 
occasion he sent for her after a service in the Cathedral of St. John 
the Divine. 

“Did you receive Holy Communion?” he asked her bluntly. 

“No,” said Miss McDowell. 

“Why not? You are a child of God and you have no business to 
sit coldly by and not participate.” 

“Well, Bishop, I did not feel in the proper mood,” said the con- 
scientious Miss McDowell. “I was late and I was nervous and my 
mind was set on getting the news.” 

“After this, whenever you are anywhere that I celebrate Holy 
Communion, you get down on your knees and ask God to forgive 
your sins, and then come to the chancel rail and receive Holy Com- 
munion,” he said. 

Cardinal Farley also was concerned over Miss McDowell’s spir- 
itual well-being. He used to plead with her to become a Catholic. 
Once, in the reception room at the archepiscopal residence on 
Madison Avenue, he brought down his fist on the table with a 
bang and declared, “You are a Catholic in spirit and you should 
become a Catholic in reality. And when you do, I shall baptize you.” 

Miss McDowell got many exclusive stories from 452 Madison 
Avenue, both for the Herald and the Times. One of the best of 
these was an interview with Cardinal Farley after Charles W. Fair- 



The New York Times 155 

banks, vice-president of the United States, had his embarrassing 
interchange with the Pope. The vice-president was in Rome and he 
had an appointment for an audience with the Pope. But he went first 
to the Methodist Mission, which was considered such a breach of 
etiquette at the Vatican that his audience was canceled. 

Every paper in the United States carried the story on the front 
page. The New York papers sent reporters to get comment from 
Cardinal Farley. But no interview was forthcoming. The following 
afternoon, as Miss McDowell walked into the Herald city room, 
Mrs. Elizabeth Cody, the head telephone operator, opened the door 
of her booth and called, “Cardinal Farley wants to see you at 
once.” 

Since Cardinals rarely call the press, Miss McDowell sped to the 
official residence. John, the butler, opened the door and ushered her 
in— not to the reception room where she usually waited, but to the 
drawing-room. To her surprise the Cardinal was there, waiting for 
her with a long typewritten manuscript in his hands. 

“Read that carefully and then ask me any questions you want,” 
he said. 

He had noticed an item in one of the dispatches from Rome 
which seemed to him incorrect. This had caused him to break his 
silence and Miss McDowell was the person who profited. Her edi- 
tors on the Herald , knowing that the story was exclusive, held it 
out until the last edition so that none of the other papers could pick 
it up. It got a heavy play. Next day reporters from all the papers 
camped on the Cardinal’s doorstep, but he had nothing further to 
say. 

Shortly afterwards she got a second exclusive story that stirred 
up the town. It was Cardinal Farley’s ban on the tango. She went to 
the official residence on another matter. As Cardinal Hayes, then a 
monsignor and chancellor of the Archdiocese, was ushering her out, 
he happened to mention how disturbed Cardinal Farley was over 
the tango dancing which was then the rage. He disclosed that the 
Cardinal was about to issue a pastoral letter forbidding all Catholics 
to indulge in the dance. He put no restriction on the information, 
and again Miss McDowell walked off with a front-page beat of no 
mean order. 

She caused a sensation in church circles when she disclosed that 
Bishop Henry Codman Potter’s body had been disinterred at the 
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, years after his death. It was taken 
across the river to Fresh Pond Crematory and the ashes were re- 
turned and placed in the vault in the Potter Memorial Chapel at 
the cathedral. The disinterment was done at night so as to avoid 



156 Ladies of the Press 

publicity. It was a necessary measure because the recumbent tomb 
was too small for the coffin. 

One of her most disconcerting experiences while she was on the 
Herald was her anxious pursuit of President Wilson and his wife 
when they visited New York on one of the gasless Sundays of war- 
time. They stayed at the Waldorf. No one knew which church they 
would attend. Miss McDowell hung about and watched until an 
attendant informed her that they had slipped out the back entrance 
and were on their way to the “little brick church.” 

This was a strong enough clue. She hurried up Fifth Avenue 
and caught the Wilsons as they approached Brick Presbyterian 
Church. An usher who knew her seated her two pews behind the 
President. Miss McDowell craned and fidgeted. She watched every 
move he made. As she wanted to let her office know that she was 
on his trail, she went out during the service to telephone from the 
parish house. When she returned she saw that the secret service men 
were watching her. There was no doubt that she had been acting sus- 
piciously. Some time later she learned that they thought her a Ger- 
man spy and that Mrs. Merrill, wife of Dr. William P. Merrill, 
minister of the church, had saved her from ejection by telling who 
she was. 

On the day that the Herald was sold, Miss McDowell, like every- 
one else, was caught unawares, although there had been much 
speculation after Mr. Bennett’s death as to the fate of the paper. 
The news came on a Saturday night. She had just been robbed 
of her life savings by a woman she had met at one of the Billy 
Sunday tent meetings, so she was not in a cheerful frame of mind. 
Outside, the snow was so deep that the Broadway street cars were 
not running. Miss McDowell walked through it for ten blocks to 
her office. When she started up the golden stairs of the Herald , 
Sullivan, the old porter, called down to her, “Oh, Miss McDowell, 
have you heard the news? The paper has been sold to Frank Mun- 
sey and the plant will be closed down in a week.” 

She hurried into the city room. It was in a state of confusion. Her 
colleagues were standing on their desks, or sitting about in dejec- 
tion. Sullivan had spoken the truth. Nearly a thousand men and 
women would be jobless. 

Miss McDowell went to her home in Newark and wept all next 
day. The death of a paper is like the death of a human being. It 
did not occur to her to rush out and look for another job. When 
she went again to the Herald office she found a blue slip in an en- 
velope buried at the bottom of her mail. It read: 

Mr. Munsey would like you, Miss McDowell, to continue 
as the Religious Editor of the Sun-Herald. 



The New York Times 157 

It was signed by William C. Reick, who was managing editor 
of the Sun. She looked around the office. She could see nothing but 
disconsolate men with families and no jobs. She decided not to 
mention her good fortune. An hour later Osmond Phillips, city 
editor of the Times , got her on the telephone and asked her to call 
and see him. In the interview that followed, she was invited to join 
his staff. 

Immediately she did more general news than had come her way 
on the Herald. She covered assemblies and conventions, wherever 
they happened to meet. Her assignments took her all over the 
country. In her twenty-seven years in New York she has reported 
twenty-five of the annual conventions of the Episcopal Diocese 
of New York. She has missed only four meetings of the Presby- 
tery and it assembles six times a year. In addition to the local 
gatherings, she has taken in the general meetings of all denomina- 
tions. 

When Bishop Manning launched his $ 10,000,000 campaign for 
the completion of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, he sent 
word to the newspaper offices that he would see reporters at five 
o’clock one afternoon to make an announcement. Miss McDowell 
took the wrong subway train and was late. She found a group of 
twenty reporters gathered around the Bishop, who looked at her 
rather reproachfully and said, “Miss McDowell, we have been wait- 
ing for you for fifty minutes.” 

Over at one side of the room was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who 
headed the New York campaign committee. He looked up with a 
smile and said quietly, “Well, the New York Times is worth waiting 
fifty minutes for.” 

For some years Miss McDowell was assigned regularly to the 
men’s Bible Class of what is now Riverside Baptist Church, when- 
ever John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was scheduled to speak. This was 
usually about twice a year. She also attended the annual dinners of 
the class and she had the ranking of an associate member. But one 
year a speaker told a smoking-room story at the dinner. Mr. Rocke- 
feller and Dr. Cornelius Woelfkin, the pastor, both expressed their 
regret to Miss McDowell, but nothing would appease her and she 
never went to another of the class dinners. 

She did impartial and thorough work on the long drawn-out con- 
troversy in the Presbyterian Church when Dr. Harry Emerson 
Fosdick was retained as special preacher in the First Presbyterian 
Church. This story carried over from her Herald to her Times days 
and paralleled in popular interest Dr. Percy Stickney Grant’s row 
with Bishop Manning. 

She was the only reporter to catch the implications of the story 



158 Ladies of the Press 

when it broke. City News sent out a routine announcement that 
Dr. Fosdick had been called to the church. He was described as a 
professor at Union Theological Seminary. But she happened to 
know that he was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montclair, 
New Jersey. She wrote a story pointing out that it was most unusual 
for a Presbyterian congregation to invite a Baptist to fill its pulpit. 

She began attending the First Church, and soon the Fosdick 
controversy was raging. She chronicled every move and frequently 
got inside information on what was going on. When Dr. Fosdick 
preached his last sermon in the church, having been ousted finally 
by mandate of the General Assembly, she was down in front as 
usual, taking notes on what he said. The church was packed. Hun- 
dreds stood outside. After the service Miss McDowell saw Mr. Ochs 
walk up the middle aisle behind Dr. John H. Finley. 

Always alert to a good story, Mr. Ochs said to her, “Have you the 
complete text of that sermon? I want to publish every word of it 
to-morrow morning.” 

Miss McDowell had rough notes. At this time Dr. Fosdick never 
prepared a manuscript for publication. Mr. Ochs spoke to Dr. Fos- 
dick and told him what he wanted to do. Immediately Miss Mc- 
Dowell pounced on the pastor, feeling that her publisher, who rarely 
interfered directly with the work of his staff, had asked for some- 
thing and it must be done. 

“If you never did anything for me in your life before, Dr. Fos- 
dick, you have got to help me now,” she pleaded. 

He told her frankly that what Mr. Ochs wanted could not be 
done, as he had no manuscript and the sermon had not been taken 
down by a stenographer. 

“Can’t you preach your sermon over again if I send up stenog- 
raphers to your home?” Miss McDowell demanded in desperation. 

Dr. Fosdick weighed the problem. “To-morrow morning?” he in- 
quired. 

“No, this afternoon,” she insisted, “and the sooner the better.” 

Dr. Finley added his persuasion. Finally Dr. Fosdick agreed to 
repeat his sermon to a stenographic audience. Meanwhile, other re- 
porters, seeing Mr. Ochs there and hearing of his request, informed 
their papers, with the result that all the papers carried the complete 
text of his farewell sermon next morning. 

Dr. Fosdick is a Modernist of the first rank. All of Miss Mc- 
Dowell’s sympathies are with the Fundamentalists. But when he had 
preached his last sermon in the First Presbyterian Church he wrote 
to her saying that although they were poles apart in conviction, she 
had never written a line which indicated her own leanings, and he 
thanked her for the fairness of her work— a rare compliment from a 



The New York Times 159 

churchman to a reporter who has had to use the good and the bad 
in a bitter controversy. 

Again she beat the town with the story that Bishop Manning had 
directed the New York Churchmen’s Association to cancel its invi- 
tation to Judge Ben B. Lindsey, of Denver, who was to have spoken 
on companionate marriage. This started another church row of 
consequence. And when Dean Howard Chandler Robbins resigned 
his diocesan post because of a disagreement with Bishop Manning, 
she was the first reporter to hear of it. She carried this rumpus 
through its various stages and was still good friends with both sides 
when it was all over. 

Miss McDowell was the first to reveal that Cardinal Mercier 
would visit America. Another of her beats was the announcement 
that Dr. Selden P. Delany had resigned as rector of the Church of 
St. Mary the Virgin to adopt the Catholic faith— a development in 
church circles that had been hatching for some years. Miss Mc- 
Dowell has hit the front page an astonishing number of times with 
exclusive stories. She has never been blind to the fact that harmony 
in the fold is only departmental news, but that a good row rates the 
front page. 

One of the more unhappy days of her newspaper life was when 
she was assigned to cover the funeral of Princess Anastasia of Greece, 
the former Mrs. William B. Leeds. The Princess died in England. 
Her body was brought back to America for burial, but the funeral 
plans were kept secret. The report was that a service would be held 
at St. Thomas’s. Dr. Ernest M. Stires, an old friend of Miss Mc- 
Dowell’s, was away on vacation and she could not reach him for 
confirmation. Officials at the church denied all knowledge of the 
plans. 

Then T. Walter Williams, the indefatigable ship news reporter of 
the Times, found out that the body was to be taken direct to Wood- 
lawn for burial. When Miss McDowell arrived there, the function- 
aries at the cemetery were mysterious. 

“Are you a reporter?” the gatekeepers demanded. 

“Yes, I’m from the Times” 

“Well, you can’t come in. I just received a telephone call from 
the family and they said they didn’t want any reporters present.” 

“A cemetery is a semi-public place and they can’t exclude me so 
long as I don’t disturb the peace,” Miss McDowell protested. 

By standing her ground, she got past the man. With the aid of 
gardeners and gravediggers she finally found the family mausoleum, 
reaching it just as an automobile from Thorley’s arrived filled with 
flowers. The head gravedigger told her she could stay if she made 



160 Ladies of the Press 

herself inconspicuous. She stood to one side as the cortege drove up. 
She saw an undertaker whom she knew quite well. Then came Dr. 
Stires. He gave her a kindly look and whispered, “Rachel, I will 
help you later.” 

Prince Christopher of Greece appeared; then William B. Leeds 
and the Princess Xenia. The service was quickly over. Soon only the 
undertaker and Miss McDowell were left. He suggested that she 
step into the vault. This she did without a moment’s hesitation. She 
noticed, with interest, that the Princess had been buried, not in the 
Leeds mausoleum but in her father’s. She began copying the epitaphs 
on the other tombs. 

When she came out of her absorption she saw to her horror that 
she was locked in. The undertaker had disappeared. There wasn’t 
a soul in sight. By standing on tiptoe, she could just see through 
the glass over the iron grill. No one but the undertaker could pos- 
sibly know where she was. Not even the Times would be aware 
that the Princess had been buried in her father’s mausoleum. There 
were no other reporters present to record the fact. 

Miss McDowell pictured herself slowly starving to death at Wood- 
lawn. Who would suspect that she was in a mausoleum? Her re- 
flections were getting dreary when suddenly the big doors opened 
and the prankish undertaker walked in. Miss McDowell did not tell 
him what she thought of him. She bounded for the open air. This 
was twelve years ago and she still does not know whether he locked 
her in by accident or intent. She sees him occasionally but never 
mentions it. The subject is too painful. 

Miss McDowell, like so many other newspaper women, intended 
to be a teacher. She was born in Newark, attended private schools 
there and went to normal school for a time. She soon decided that 
she had no taste for teaching so she went to work as a clerk in an 
insurance office, and devoutly prayed every night for something 
to do that she could really enjoy. On the day of Queen Victoria’s 
death she produced a sonnet. Her father, Dr. William O. McDowell, 
submitted it to one of the Hearst papers and it was printed. John L. 
O’Toole, then city editor of the Newark News and now vice- 
president of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, gave her 
her first newspaper job at $10 a week. She stayed on the Newark 
paper for more than six years and did society, clubs, a school column, 
women’s and missionary activities and general assignments. She be- 
came religious editor of the Herald through doing occasional stories 
for the Sunday edition. 

All of Miss McDowell’s ancestors were churchmen. They had a 
share in founding Princeton University. Her great grandfather, the 



The New York Times 161 

Rev. Dr. William Anderson McDowell, was Moderator of the Gen- 
eral Assembly in 1833. 

Kathleen McLaughlin, the newspaper woman who finally over- 
came the prevailing prejudice against women in the city room, came 
to the Times fresh from the swift-paced Chicago Tribune . Although 
bom in Greenleaf, Kansas, she moved so early in life to Atchison 
that she has always considered it her native town. Ever since she 
was old enough to read a paper she had the idea that she wanted 
to be a reporter. 

She worked for a year and a half under Eugene Howe, on the 
Atchison Daily Globe , then went to Chicago on vacation, taking 
some clippings with her. She went to the Tribune on a gamble. 
She didn’t dream she would land a job. But it happened that Maurine 
Watkins had left a month before. It was a strategic moment. She 
was the girl on the spot. She had a capable manner, a persuasive 
tongue. The city editor studied her clippings and told her she could 
go to work in the morning. 

Miss McLaughlin first made an impression when she landed an 
interview with Olgivanna Milanoff, the Montenegrin beauty who 
had been arrested under the Mann Act with Frank Lloyd Wright 
and their illegitimate daughter, Iovanna, when they crossed the 
Mississippi River one September day and drove into Minneapolis. 
Olgivanna had held her tongue until Miss McLaughlin got to her, 
except for a chat with Lorena Hickok when she was first brought 
into jail. Up to that time she had been a mystery. But she talked 
illuminatingly to Miss McLaughlin, and as all Chicago was interested 
in the adventures of the brilliant architect, it made a good story. 

From this Miss McLaughlin was swept into the whirlpool of 
crime reporting. It was the era when machine guns rattled through 
the streets of Chicago with astonishing frequency and the over- 
lords ran the town. When Big Tim Murphy finished his jail term 
for his share in the Dearborn mail robbery, she was sent to Leaven- 
worth to travel back with him. Jake Lingle, the Tribune staff man 
who later was murdered, introduced her to Florence Murphy, Tim’s 
wife. She and Mrs. Murphy traveled to Leavenworth together and 
established friendly communication. Miss McLaughlin found her 
quarry genial and candid. He was more than six feet three, a hearty 
soul, graduated from swimmin* school— a natural who could spin a 
lively tale. Some of the best stories Miss McLaughlin ever wrote 
were done on Big Tim. They were written with Irish wit and 
sparkle. 

After that she always looked after the Murphys when they got 
into hot water, which was quite frequently. When Big Tim was 
wiped out with machine guns on the front lawn of his Morse Ave- 



1 62 Ladies of the Press 

nue bungalow, she wrote the funeral story. It was one of the spon- 
taneous carnivals of gangdom, for Big Tim had been popular. 

She had a clean scoop a year later when Florence married hand- 
some John (“Dingbat”) Oberta, gangster and politician. The bride 
and groom obligingly posed for a Tribune picture, looking calm and 
happy. But Dingbat went on his way too, his life rudely ended by 
three associates in a liquor deal. Again there was a fine funeral with 
hearts of roses and crosses of lilies, which Miss McLaughlin covered 
from force of habit. 

That night the widow broke down and told her who had done 
it, but the story was too dangerous to use. There was one dramatic 
moment at the wake when the watchful bruisers turned everyone 
out of the house except the widow and Miss McLaughlin, closed the 
front door, opened the back door and secretively admitted Polack 
Joe Saltis and his bodyguard. At the moment he was one of the big 
shots of gangdom. He had been Oberta’s chief in the beer racket, 
and Miss McLaughlin watched him somewhat cynically as he stood 
in the light of the flickering candles, staring down at the corpse. The 
slain man was handsome as a movie hero, young and incredibly 
vicious. Saltis was beetle-browed, huge, coarse, revolting. He is now 
a farmer in Wisconsin, raising potatoes. 

Miss McLaughlin reached the home of Tony Lombardo, head of 
the Unione Sicilione, before his wife had received the news of his 
murder. He had just died from a volley of bullets that caught him 
as he stood at Dearborn and Madison Streets watching an airplane 
being hoisted into a top window at the Boston Store. His wife, a 
plump young woman with dark bobbed hair, flung open the door 
when Miss McLaughlin arrived, expecting to see her husband. As a 
rule bad news reaches an Italian family like wildfire, and their 
mouths are shut tight by the time the police and press arrive. But 
Miss McLaughlin had to tell her that Tony was dead. 

The woman threw herself on the floor, tore her hair, rent her 
pink housedress, and shrieked insanely for her two children, who 
added their howls to hers. Just as Miss McLaughlin and her pho- 
tographer were about to hurry her to the scene in the Tribune car, 
the gang arrived and cleared them out. After that no one got in— not 
even the State’s Attorney. 

The flowers next day overflowed the house and yard. The largest 
was a heart of red roses, seven feet high, inset with “My Pal” in 
carnations. The card read “A1 Brown.” This was from Capone 
himself. Lombardo was one of the many heads of the liquor syndi- 
cate snuffed out during Capone’s mad reign. Supposedly he was one 
of his. friends. 

Miss McLaughlin interviewed the crime czar, chased Prince 



The New York Times 163 

Nicholas of Rumania through the streets of Chicago, found Lady 
Diana Manners modest and Peggy Hopkins Joyce high-hat. She met 
the celebrities, freaks and criminals of the period. She did a series on 
maids by going out herself to apply for jobs. When she went to 
Europe for a holiday she sent back a series of articles on good eating 
abroad. For eighteen months she edited the woman’s page of the 
Chicago Tribune and launched an annual conference patterned after 
the New York Herald Tribune's Forum on Current Problems. In 
February, 1934, she started a woman’s page column called “Through 
the Looking Glass,” which is now conducted by Eleanor Nangle. It 
is written with a light, adroit touch, sells commodities without using 
trade names, and gets a response of more than two thousand tele- 
phone calls a day. 

Miss McLaughlin walked into the New York Times office at as 
apt a moment as she had tried her luck on the Chicago Tribune . 
The paper was about to start a woman’s club page. She now edits 
this page, covers women’s conventions and does general news as- 
signments, for she is a versatile and experienced reporter. Her stories 
on the political conventions of 1936 made the front page day after 
day. She is accepted in the city room on exactly the same basis as 
the men— a triumph in the eyes of her colleagues, who have long re- 
garded the Times as the last post to capture. 

However inhospitable the city staff has been to newspaper women, 
the Sunday magazine section has made free use of their talents. The 
work of Anne O’Hare McCormick and Mildred Adams is feature 
writing at its highest level. Miss Adams is a reporter of mature talent 
with a sound background in history, economics and languages— in- 
valuable assets for the feature writer to-day. She prefers politics and 
economic subjects, and likes the interview as a form of reporting, 
but she is endowed with a graceful pictorial style which enables her 
to write fluently on anything from fashions to a bullfight. On a 
visit to Spain she became interested in the experiments being made 
in modern education there; but a message from her London office 
urged her to cover a bullfight, which resulted in a graphic story on 
the Spaniard’s favorite sport. 

Miss Adams has witnessed some of the dramatic spectacles of re- 
cent years on both sides of the Atlantic. She watched Spain making 
its constitution in 1931. She was on the sidelines at Geneva when 
Russia joined the League of Nations. She found correspondence 
abroad more complicated than reporting in America, because of the 
difficulty of assessing the relative importance of crowding details 
in an unfamiliar country. 

Only twice has she been aware of sex limitations in her work. 
When she attempted to interview a Maharajah, his secretary soF 



164 Ladies of the Press 

emnly assured her that if the news got back to the nabob’s province 
that he had talked to an unveiled woman, he would be laughed out 
of countenance. On another occasion, when she was seeking realistic 
copy on the barge life of the river, she found so many obstacles put 
in her way that she finally realized a newspaper woman was not 
really welcome in this hard-boiled domain. 

Whenever possible Miss Adams does interviews. Once she made 
Calvin Coolidge talk for an hour and a half. He refused to discuss 
politics but he unbent to an unexpected degree and grew almost 
loquacious over the depth of the lake near his summer home and 
other matters that interested him at the moment. On another occa- 
sion she caught Huey Long on a train, talked to him for an entire 
day and assembled a convincing picture of him at a time when his 
shouts were first being heard outside his own state. 

Miss Adams majored in economics at the University of California. 
For two years she had a social service job, but did not care for the 
future it offered. Until she moved East she had never written any- 
thing; in fact, she modestly thought that the literary world was 
beyond her aspirations. But when her family gave her the chance to 
try her own wings in New York, she felt as if she had received the 
key to heaven. 

Her aunt was managing editor of the Woman's Journal , a publica- 
tion which needed copy but had little money to spend for it at that 
time. So Miss Adams gladly contributed to its columns. Then one 
day she went to the Saturday Review of Literature and William 
Rose Benet gave her an armful of the worst novels she had ever 
read. This gave her heart. If such stuff could be published, she 
thought that there might be hope for her. Soon afterwards she made 
a connection with the Times . That was ten years ago. To-day her 
articles appear with regularity in the Sunday paper. They cover a 
wide range of subject and are always written with an informed 
touch. Miss Adams also contributes to magazines. 



[ I«5 3 


Chapter XIV 

UNDER THE GOLD DOME 


T he city room of the New York World was jammed with 
an anxious crowd as midnight approached on the night of 
February 26, 1931. Reporters, desk men, editors, copy boys 
went about their tasks. The paper had to come out. It was not yet 
quite dead. 

Vivian Gordon’s body had just been identified. That was a three- 
column head. In Washington President Hoover had been overridden 
by the House on the veterans’ bonus. That was front-page news too. 
But the question remained— was the sale of the World or Vivian 
Gordon to lead the paper? Surrogate James J. Foley alone could 
give the answer. 

At 1 1.56 p.m. the City News bulletin ticked into the World office 
with the sentence of death: surrogate foley approves sale of 
world. A few minutes later a staff man came tumbling in with the 
text of the decision. Ben A. Franklin, night city editor, grabbed the 
pages from him, tore the meat from them, tossed off paragraphs for 
Lindsay Parrott to digest and rewrite as he sat at his typewriter, con- 
tainedly batting out the requiem of a great paper. 

Allen Norton seized the copy, take by take, rushed it to Mr. 
Franklin for fast editing, then saw it on its way to the composing 
room. It was the last important story written for a paper that had 
vigorously and brilliantly served the public from the day Joseph 
Pulitzer took it over in 1883— a paper singularly beloved by the 
craft. 

Then the presses began to roar and the staff to let off steam. The 
men and women gathered around the night city desk burst into 
“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,” ending with the defiant note: “What 
the hell do we care now?” Upstairs compositors who had been with 
the paper for forty years sang “Auld Lang Syne” more gravely. 

In the group that watched each move as the last issue went to 
press was Elenore Kellogg, one of the genuinely first-rate women 
news writers of the country. She had written her last front-page 
story for the World that night— a murderer confessing a killing in 



1 66 Ladies of the Press 

Jersey. She was one of the chief mourners for a paper that her style 
peculiarly suited, for it was witty, penetrating and unafraid. 

Miss Kellogg died after an operation in 1935. At the time of her 
illness she was with the Associated Press, but her career reached its 
peak during her days on the World , when she contributed an as- 
sured and sparkling touch to the news columns. She was a feminist 
and deplored anything in the way of a feminine assignment or the 
woman’s angle on a news story. Like Lorena Hickok, she did straight 
politics or any major assignment that came along. Her best work 
was done on trials and her stories frequently led the World. 

When Judge Ben B. Lindsey jumped up in his seat to call Bishop 
Manning a liar in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on December 
7, 1930, he nearly bowled over Miss Kellogg in his excitement. He 
was sitting next to her. 

“Bishop Manning, you have lied to me,” he shouted. 

The judge was hastily ejected. The service went on. Miss Kel- 
logg’s story led the World next morning with a two-column head. 
It was a dramatic account of a disturbing moment in the life of a 
Bishop. 

Miss Kellogg was in the thick of a rumpus again when she was 
assigned to cover a gathering of Communists and Socialists in Madi- 
son Square Garden. The rioters jumped on the press tables, threw 
chairs and struck out in all directions. The battle raged for two 
hours. More than a hundred persons were injured before things 
quieted down. This was a story that suited Miss Kellogg’s style. Like 
any born reporter, she liked a good row. She went through many of 
the Communist riots and saw the mounted police charge the march- 
ers in Union Square when Grover A. Whalen led his handsome blue- 
coated police regiment into action. 

She followed Dwight W. Morrow’s successful Senatorial cam- 
paign in New Jersey in 1930 and trailed A 1 Smith on his swing 
through New England in the presidential campaign of 1928. When 
she went to the Democratic headquarters in Boston, the politicians 
were flabbergasted to see a girl show up. They turned her over to a 
woman so that she could get the feminine angle on the story. They 
would not give her a press ticket for Al’s big meeting, but told her 
that she could sit in the spectators’ gallery. Her protestations that 
she was writing the lead did not move them. 

Miss Kellogg immediately telephoned to Western Union. 

“You get me a typewriter and have it in the press section at that 
meeting,” she said. 

When she arrived the typewriter was there. She marched in, took 
a seat and remained to cover the meeting. Her work had the firm 
touch of the seasoned political writer. 



Under the Gold Dome 167 

One of the most difficult stories she ever did was the first clash 
in court between Isidore Kresel and Max Steuer during the Bank 
of United States investigation. It was a complicated financial story. 
She was sent to write a special feature on the two enemies face to 
face. She took sketchy notes for a color story. But at the last mo- 
ment the night desk decided that she was to write the lead. This 
was a task calling for the quick assimilation of involved testimony, 
perfect balance and fast work on the typewriter. She turned out a 
finished job in jig time— a real test of a newspaper woman’s skill on 
the type of story which she is not supposed to handle well. 

She showed another facet when Texas Guinan and Helen Morgan 
were battling prohibition charges in court. Her stories were models 
of satire. She had the dramatic touch on court work and saw many 
murderers on their way to the chair. The World stories on Earle 
Peacox and Colin Campbell, th° two torch murderers, were all writ- 
ten by Miss Kellogg. 

She often did the tiresome holiday and weather round-ups, which 
are an essential part of every paper’s front page, but which, for the 
reporter, involve hours in stuffy telephone booths while the rest 
of the world is on holiday, listening to correspondents babbling the 
myriad details of crowds and drownings at Coney Island, packed 
highways, automobile accidents, thunderstorms and all the vagaries 
of nature and the holiday maker. 

Occasionally she filled the column left vacant by Heywood Broun 
when he went over to the T elegram . Here she was at her best, her 
literary and imaginative qualities in full flower. Her travel pieces 
were choice. It was her custom to go abroad in freighters, stopping 
off at obscure ports and turning out contemplative pieces on what 
she saw, thought and ate. She was an epicure and wrote intelligently 
of food. 

When the World was sold, Miss Kellogg was on the list of re- 
porters invited to join the Herald Tribune staff. Her vivid style 
flashed again on the front page in a different setting. This was a 
period when the Reds were marching and shouting around Union 
Square and she wrote with gusto of their activities. She did a smart 
round-up that led the paper when a package of bombs was sent 
through the post office in 1932. She followed this with a witty suc- 
cession of stories on a nudist colony near Poughkeepsie. Her victims 
liked her satire. They invited her back as a guest. They assured her 
she could wear clothes if she liked; it wouldn’t debar her from their 
colony. So she went, taking pyjamas and a bathing suit, so as not to 
be too much out of the picture in the nudists’ paradise. 

From the Herald Tribune Miss Kellogg went to the Post to con- 
duct the woman’s column in the absence of Marion Clyde Mac- 



1 68 Ladies of the Press 

Carroll. She turned out a sharp and sophisticated column, refusing 
to cater to the traditional feminine interests. She did not believe in 
the separation of men’s and women’s activities in the daily paper. 

She joined the staff of the A.P. in 1934 and here again she was in 
her element. She did ship news and an art column as well as general 
assignments. In her interviews she projected the personality of her 
subject in sharp focus. This was a trick she first learned on the 
World , where the staff were allowed great freedom of expression. 
They could write realistically and reproduce eccentricities of dia- 
lect, manner or grammar to a degree not permitted in the more con- 
servative papers. This gave their work a racy quality and permitted 
Miss Kellogg to use her gift of caricature. She had a vigorous in- 
tellect and an unobtrusive manner. There was no need for her to 
lean on any of her colleagues, for she was entirely capable of getting 
her own facts and presenting them in a sound and entertaining way. 

Elenore was a true Bohemian. She knew the poets, artists and 
radicals of Greenwich Village, liked evenings of talk, had discrimi- 
nating taste in books and art, was always sympathetic to radical 
causes, sought out odd restaurants to indulge her epicurean tastes, 
had a pampered Persian cat named Hubert, once owned an island in 
the Bronx, and had a passion for the sea. 

She was born in Chicago, attended normal school there, then 
switched to a course in journalism at the University of Wisconsin. 
She came to New York in 1918, went the rounds of the newspaper 
offices, got the cold shoulder everywhere. She did not even succeed 
in seeing the city editor of the World , where she was later to shine. 
Once she got a pointed message from him: “We have one woman on 
the staff and we have had her for twenty-five years.” 

She landed on the Call, covered labor meetings, joined the So- 
cialist party. Then her paper blew up. The staff walked out and 
that was the end of it. She went over to the Globe. Catherine Brody 
was on the staff at the time and romance was blooming in the city 
room between Henry Pringle, who later became a fine biographer of 
the debunking school, and Helena Huntington Smith, an attractive 
young newspaper woman who soon went on to domesticity and the 
magazine field. 

But after six months on the Globe , Mr. Munsey stepped in and 
again Miss Kellogg knew what the sale of a newspaper meant in 
human values. For the next three years she worked on the News , 
but never liked it. When she left she was told: “You are too calm 
and critical to work on a tabloid. You would be all right on the 
Times .” Her next move was to the World, where she was perfectly 
adjusted and turned out copy that was alive, biting and intelligent. 
But for the third time her paper was snuffed out. This time more 



Under the Gold Dome 169 

drama and public mourning attended the event, for the death of the 
World was unlike the death of any other paper. 

Miss Kellogg was forty-one when she died. Ann Cutler, an old 
colleague from the World days, gave a blood transfusion to save her 
life, but it was no use. 

Miss Cutler got her job under the gold dome in 1928 by putting 
over a beggar girl series at a time when the streets were filled with 
panhandlers. She found a ragged outfit at the Salvation Army head- 
quarters, made herself up like a hag, got a license for $2 and walked 
the streets selling pencils and holding out a battered cup. 

She learned that Wall Street in the pre-depression era was one of 
the softest spots in New York for the beggar, and there she garnered 
in from $5 to $10 an hour. She found stenographers more generous 
than women buyers in the shopping region. The subways were lush 
picking. If one person reached for a coin when she entered a car, 
the other passengers followed suit. Broadway after the theater was 
best of all. Up to that time few panhandlers had tried it, but when 
her story appeared beggars swarmed into the theatrical district. 

The summer before the World was sold Miss Cutler was sent to 
South America with Vinnie Sullivan, the marble champion of the 
United States by default. Vinnie gave performances before all the 
presidents of South America and provided his press representative 
with plenty of copy. 

Miss Cutler was an enterprising reporter who knew how to put 
a stunt across. She had herself arrested on a technical charge of dis- 
turbing the peace of Pennsylvania, so that she could spend three 
days in the county jail of Reading, where there had been a riot. 
For a time she worked on the Sunday American , writing weird 
stories about prehistoric man, ghosts who came to life, scandals in 
high society and pseudo-scientific copy. Now she does publicity. 
She is a graduate of Marshall College, Huntington, West Virginia. 
She played for a time in stock and worked on the Charleston 
Daily Mail and Cincinnati Enquirer before reaching Park Row. 

Of all the newspaper women who havie worked for the World, 
no name is more closely identified with its history than that of Mazie 
Clemens, who was on the staff for twenty-five years and was well 
known to politicians, churchmen, judges and jailers. She was one of 
the more adventurous reporters, famous for crashing prisons and 
reaching the principals in a story when no one else could get near 
them. 

Miss Clemens is small and dark, has an animated manner, plenty 
of nerve and a sound knowledge of New York’s complex political 
machinery. She has strong Catholic connections and is the only 
reporter who can compete with Rachel McDowell on a story cen- 



170 Ladies of the Press 

tering on St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She gave the World many exclu- 
sive stories but she always made a mystery of her successful tech- 
nique. In order to get into a jail she has been known to dress in 
flowing black as a sorrowing relative and so beguile the guards. But 
more often Mazie has won her way by blarney. She has a smooth 
tongue, a shrewd eye, and a wary knowledge of the devious ways of 
politicians and crooks. 

She joined the staff in 1906 and worked until 1914 as a statistician 
and assistant editor on the staff of the World Almanac. Occasionally 
the city desk borrowed her to do a story and in time she was trans- 
ferred to the general staff. Nothing in the way of a snub ever 
daunted her in the pursuit of her duty— an immunity which makes 
life easier for the reporter. 

When Bonaventura Cardinal Cerretti was sent on a tour of the 
world by the Pope and passed through New York, she got a signed 
interview from him for her paper. When Cardinal Logue, primate 
of Ireland, was here on a visit in 1908, she had a talk with him. 
She and Miss McDowell invariably made it a point of pride to inter- 
view visiting Cardinals. 

She went abroad in 1919 and rounded up a number of celebrities. 
She talked to General Pershing, was received by Cardinal Mercier 
and got an anti-German outburst from Foch. She was presented to 
Clemenceau and interviewed Queen Elizabeth of Belgium. Then 
she went to Rome, where she had both public and private audiences 
with Pope Benedict. When d’Annunzio declared a blockade on 
Fiume, she dressed as a peasant, went in, made a survey of condi- 
tions and left before the authorities could catch her. Her vivid dark 
eyes and black hair made the deception a simple matter so far as 
appearances went, but the language was more of a problem. One of 
her greatest triumphs was an interview with the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury at Lambeth Palace. 

In her earlier newspaper days Miss Clemens did a number of 
stunts. She walked across Manhattan Bridge on the footpath before 
•the cables were laid. The World gave her a bonus of $100 for this 
feat, and splashed the story on the front page. 

She and her dog Freckles figured in the Hall-Mills trial. The morn- 
ing after the bodies of Dr. Hall and Mrs. Mills were discovered, 
Mazie drove up to the Hall home with her small dog, in time to see 
Henry Carpender come out of the house and bum some papers on 
the lawn. When he went on trial four years later she was called to 
the witness stand by Senator Alexander Simpson to testify to this 
incident. During the mbnths that the case was brewing she and her 
dog became familiar to all the residents of Somerville. 



Under the Gold Dome 17 1 

After the sale of the World Miss Clemens worked in the Depart- 
ment of Correction. In private life she is Mrs. Louis Caldwell. 

Another veteran of the World who worked alongside Miss 
Clemens was Emma de Zouche, who covered women’s activities. For 
a time the talented Mary Ross was on the general staff. She followed 
the suffrage struggle, was on the Hughes train and saw Margaret 
Sanger through her early difficulties. Miss Ross, the former wife of 
Lewis Gannett, is now associate editor of the Survey , a free lance 
writer and book reviewer. 

One of the last of a string of young college girls to join the staff 
was Louisa Wilson, who invaded Park Row fresh from college. Her 
upbringing was unusual. She was born in an inland missionary sum- 
mer resort in China and attended a Chinese school until she was 
eleven, when she went to a boarding school in Shanghai. At the age 
of fifteen she was brought back to America and her education was 
completed at Wellesley. 

She went to the World office with a letter to Mr. Swope from 
the father of one of her classmates. She spent three anxious days on 
the bench outside the editorial rooms, full of hope and anxiety. 
Then Mr. Swope saw her and did his best to discourage her. Louisa 
was tall, fair, delicate and obviously unhardened to life’s bumps. 
Mr. Swope told her that she could not last, and that she had no con- 
ception of a newspaper woman’s life. It was rough and tough and 
hard, he said. Bad hours. Difficult tasks. All sorts of obstacles. 

Fearing that her collegiate appearance was giving him the wrong 
impression of her background, she told him earnestly that she had to 
work for a living and that she was staying in a $5 a week room. 
Her total capital was $100, and she was desperately anxious to land 
on the World . 

Mr. Swope was less implacable about women reporters than most 
newspaper executives, although he always began by frightening them 
out of their wits. If they survived the barrage he gave them real 
opportunities and praised their work. He engaged Miss Wilson tem- 
porarily at a small salary. 

“I’ll raise you or fire you at the end of a month,” he told her 
candidly. 

He was gambling on her persistence and nerve. She soon showed 
that she didn’t lack either. Her work had a sensitive touch, but she 
was hardy at getting news. Although she looked like a schoolgirl 
let loose in a grim world, she showed good sense and skill at her job. 
She also had beginners’ luck. When Old Glory crashed she was as- 
signed to interview the widows of the aviators. They were in seclu- 
sion at a hotel and refused to see anyone from the papers. Miss Wil- 
son was still running around New York in campus sweaters and flat 



172 Ladies of the Press 

sport shoes and looked as young as she was. She told the hotel ele- 
vator man who was guarding the aviators’ wives from intrusion that 
she had to get an interview or be fired. There could be no question 
about the sincerity of her statement. It was written in her face. He 
let her in, although her competitors were barred. The result was an 
exclusive story for her paper. 

Soon afterwards the city editor gave her another stiff assignment. 
“Find Henry Ford,” he said. “He’s somewhere in town, registered 
under his own or an assumed name. Have a good talk with him.” 

Until recent years Mr. Ford was one of the genuine inaccessibles, 
and was so catalogued in every newspaper office. It was a sensation 
when Wilbur Forrest, of the Herald Tribune , first got to him, and 
he saw him only because he thought Mr. Forrest looked as if he 
might make a good mechanic. 

Miss Wilson went from one hotel to another trying to find the 
automobile king. On her way into the Ritz, she spotted his lean 
figure coming through the door. For a moment she was paralyzed 
with surprise. Then she hurried after him. 

“You are Henry Ford?” she said excitedly. 

“I am,” he told her, “and what do you want?” 

Miss Wilson said she was from the World and that all she wanted 
was an interview. To her astonishment he smiled and nodded his as- 
sent. Then, as she sat down beside him in a quiet corner of the 
lobby, she realized that in her anxiety to find him, she had given no 
thought to preparing herself for the interview. What should she 
ask him? She didn’t know. She had a rare opportunity, but at the 
moment was too inexperienced to make the best use of it. They 
talked on but she felt later that she had wasted a golden chance. 
Her questions evoked nothing of interest. Several years later, on 
Mr. Ford’s sixty-seventh birthday, she talked to him again. This time 
she was prepared. The result was a rich and absorbing interview. She 
could have kept him busy for hours answering questions, for in the 
interval she had learned how to strike flint. 

Her first out-of-town assignment was to write about Mrs. A 1 
Smith when her husband was nominated for the Presidency in 1928. 
Charles Michelson, then head of the Washington bureau of the World 
and now publicity director for the Democratic National Commit- 
tee, was writing the lead. He, Louisa and William Woodford, of the 
World's political staff, had breakfast together on the morning of the 
nomination. 

Miss Wilson told Mr. Michelson with some alarm that she had a 
stomach ache, brought qn, she was sure, from excitement over such 
an important story. Mr. Michelson looked at her over his orange 
juice and observed: 



Under the Gold Dome 173 

“When a reporter doesn’t have a stomach ache or other symp- 
toms of excitement over a big assignment, then it’s time for him to 
become an editor.” 

On two occasions Miss Wilson was assigned to interview youthful 
heirs to family fame— John D. Rockefeller, 3d, and Gloria Caruso. 
When young Rockefeller had finished his education and his travels, 
and was about to take his place in the business world, Ivy Lee noti- 
fied the newspaper offices that there would be an interview. He 
asked that a “high class” reporter be assigned. Since nothing irritates 
a city desk so much as being dictated to, and particularly by a press 
agent, there was general annoyance in the World office, and Miss 
Wilson got a scoffing send-off from her colleagues. High class, 
indeed! 

The elder Rockefeller introduced his offspring with considerable 
pride. “My son, John,” he said. “I really needn’t talk for him. He 
can take care of himself.” 

One brash reporter turned to young John and asked him if he 
had to live with his family, or if it would be possible for him 
to branch out and make a home of his own. Mr. Rockefeller’s face 
was a study as he smiled at John and answered for him: 

“No trouble so far, have you?” 

Gloria Caruso was nine years old when Miss Wilson interviewed 
her. By a court decision she had just been awarded two-thirds, in- 
stead of the expected one-half, of her father’s fortune. She was 
brown-haired, thickset, a sturdy miniature of her famous father. 
She disliked reporters, she confessed to Louisa, because they and the 
photographers always kept her from getting a clear view of the 
Statue of Liberty when she came in from Europe. 

She was polite to Miss Wilson but begged one favor. “I hope you 
won’t put in the paper that I can’t roller skate,” she said, “because 
some children read the papers and I don’t want them to know that 
I can’t roller skate.” 

But Louisa, the heartless wretch, gave Gloria away, and next 
morning any child who dipped into the World as he ate his cereal 
might read the sad truth about Caruso’s daughter. 

Miss Wilson and John Chamberlain, of the Times, tried to outdo 
each other one season with their fabulous circus stories. They were 
encouraged in this by Dexter Fellows, the genial impresario who 
fed out items about his entourage— the madder the better. But the 
best joke was on Miss Wilson herself. Mr. Fellows had been building 
up a terrific ballyhoo on the importation of Goliath, the Sea Ele- 
phant. At last Goliath arrived and Louisa was sent to give the big 
boy the once over. She first beheld the monstrous creature in a 



174 Ladies of the Press 

wooden crate. She wanted to be thorough in assembling her facts 
about him. 

“Does he swim?” she asked, absent-mindedly. 

This furnished a story for the other papers next day— the de- 
flation of Goliath’s ego when a girl reporter asked if he could swim. 

Miss Wilson did considerable court work during her years on the 
World and for one period had the Supreme Court beat. The part a 
reporter may inadvertently play in court-room procedure was il- 
lustrated for her one day when a justice walked with her from the 
Supreme Court Building to the World . He had been presiding in a 
case where a woman was suing a prominent hotel manager for 
giving her a black eye. 

“I couldn’t tell from your face to-day” he said, “whether you 
thought the woman was lying or not.” 

When an aunt of Miss Wilson’s died and left her some money, 
she decided to use it for travel. She went to China. She lived in 
Shanghai and made extended trips into the interior. She interviewed 
Madame Chiang Kai Shek, wife of the head of the Chinese govern- 
ment, and other outstanding Chinese women who had broken their 
shackles. 

The World was sold while she was in the Orient. She got the 
news in Shanghai. It gave her an astonishing feeling of grief, even 
at that distance. When she got back she worked on the World - 
T elegram for a time. She now does publicity and is the author of a 
novel about China called Broken Journey , a delicately told story of 
the child of a Chinese missionary. By a coincidence she heard that 
it was accepted on the day of her marriage to Read Hager, whom 
she first met as a child in a school in Shanghai. 

Soon after the war Elizabeth Eskey landed on the World , a girl 
from the Middle West who quickly learned the ropes, although she 
could scarcely type and did not know what a stick of copy was 
when she joined the staff. She was told by the city editor when he 
gave her a job: “A cub reporter is a liability to a paper, not an 
asset. And I’ve never had a woman cub. God knows what I’ll do 
with you.” 

Her first court story was libelous and had to be rewritten from 
City News, but later she did excellent work. In the end she found 
newspaper work wearing, and she left it to run a tea-room. Two 
other girls who worked on the World during the same period were 
Helen Mockler, a capable newspaper woman who could handle any 
sort of assignment, and Elizabeth Houghton, a sensitive college girl 
who wrote well but suffered acutely in the hard-boiled atmosphere 
of Park Row. Miss Houghton’s first important story was the trial 
of young Francis Kluxen for the murder of Janette Lawrence, an 



Under the Gold Dome 175 

eleven-year-old girl who was killed in the woods near Madison, 
New Jersey, in 1921. Although only sixteen Francis was an amazing 
witness in his own behalf. He baffled everyone, in spite of the strong 
evidence against him. He was acquitted and went on to further 
trouble. He changed his name, went West and has been accused of 
murder again. 

When Dempsey knocked out Firpo, a blue-eyed, fair-haired girl 
watched the contest from the press row and wrote a story that got 
her a by-line in the World next day. This was Margaret Pratt, a 
Vassar girl who had been broken in on the Boston Traveller and 
the Albany Evening News before reaching Park Row. She attended 
the Sacco- Vanzetti trial, but at the time it seemed less important in 
Boston than the case of an impeached district attorney and two 
local murders then in the news. 

Although exceptionally competent at her work, Miss Pratt did not 
stay on the World for long, because working at a desk nearby was 
C. B. Allen, flyer and aviation writer. Theirs was another of the 
swift newspaper romances. Soon Miss Pratt handed in her resigna- 
tion and married Mr. Allen, who is now aviation expert for the 
Herald Tribune . 

She was followed by Isabel Boyd, who was taken on the staff by 
Mr. Swope and soon was doing the features that teach the young 
reporter how to find her way around New York. Miss Boyd inter- 
viewed a woman in New Jersey who had not spoken to her husband 
for twenty years. The hold-out threw a pail of water at her for 
her pains. She investigated the bathing suit situation at Bayville. 
She followed Mary Pickford to a Boy Scout camp, and wrote fea- 
tures about immigrants caught in red tape snarls at Ellis Island. 
When a deer broke loose in Central Park Zoo and ran down Fifth 
Avenue in the thick of the traffic, her story landed on the front 
page, for the World never missed a trick on a human interest story. 
After getting some general experience Miss Boyd free-lanced abroad, 
then returned and did features for the Sunday World magazine. 
She is the author of a child’s life of Hans Andersen. She has done 
short stories and book reviewing and for a time she did publicity 
for the Women’s City Club. 

The next to come along of the capable group of newspaper 
women who worked for the World during the early twenties was 
Gertrude Lynahan, a handsome girl whose work was rated with the 
best that Park Row produced at that time. Her first newspaper ex- 
perience was on the Springfield Union . She had a level-headed ap- 
proach to any story and was equally adept at straight news and 
features. After working for two years on the city staff she moved 
over to the sports department in 1927— an innovation at the time. 



176 Ladies of the Press 

Later she did fashions for the Times . Miss Lynahan is the wife of 
Joel Sayre, of Rackety Rax fame, one of Park Row’s favorite grad- 
uates, now turning out motion picture scripts in Hollywood. 

While Miss Lynahan was still on the paper, Mabel Abbott was 
also doing good work for the World . She used her shorthand to 
advantage on trials. Bom in Iowa, she got her first newspaper job in 
the State of Washington and then worked her way from coast to 
coast on large and small newspapers. 

The morning, evening and Sunday editions of the World were 
always hospitable to women, from Nellie Bly’s time until the day 
the paper was sold. Marie Manning (the original Beatrice Fairfax), 
Zona Gale, Anne O’Hagan and Josephine Robb followed Elizabeth 
Jordan. Then came Nixola Greeley-Smith, Marguerite Mooers Mar- 
shall, Sophie Irene Loeb, Ruth Millard, Fay Stevenson and Bella 
Cohen, all of whom wrote for the Evening World . 

Miss Cohen, who started her newspaper career on the Call , worked 
on both sides of the Atlantic, sending correspondence from Germany, 
Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary. It was she who first sprang the story 
of the Princess Anastasia who claims to be the daughter of the Czar. 
The Russian girl was lying ill in a hospital when Miss Cohen first 
heard of her. She got to her nurse, armed with roses, and bit by bit 
dug out the story which became part of the curious history of the 
Russian emigrees. 

Miss Cohen married Sam Spewack, a World star, who did foreign 
correspondence for several years, after covering the Stillman divorce 
and other celebrated stories in New York. They are now successful 
playwrights. One of their joint plays, Clear All Wires , dealt with 
the foreign correspondent in Russia— a subject with which they both 
were familiar. 

When Allene Talmey, fresh from Vassar, rushed away from a 
prom to get to New York to keep an appointment with Mr. Swope 
about a job, she did not know that there was no need to hurry. 
She waited a whole day for him to show up. When he arrived he 
kept half a dozen telephones busy at once, calling up Bernard 
Baruch, John J. Raskob and four or five more of his intimates— 
all names that caused reverberations in Miss Talmey’s head. 

“You don’t want to be a reporter,” he shot at her suddenly, 
banging down one of the receivers. 

“But I do,” Miss Talmey insisted. 

“Do you know what a reporter’s life is like? Just listen to me,” 
barked Mr. Swope and then he detailed the horrors. 

However, she was taken on the staff and continued to work for 
the World from 1924 to 1927. While she was still quite green Mr. 
Swope came striding into the city room one day, shouted for her, 



Under the Gold Dome 177 

and raged on, while she stood frozen among the typewriters. When 
the furore had died down, and the onlookers in the city room were 
beginning to relax, it became apparent that he was merely praising 
a story she had written, but it had taken volleys of spirited words 
to get the idea across. Miss Talmey practically fainted from stage 
fright over Mr. Swope’s dynamic commendation. After leaving the 
World she did motion picture and magazine work and is now an 
associate editor of Vogue . 

From 1926 to 1930 Beatrice Blackmar Gould was assistant editor 
of the Sunday World while Louis Weitzenkom was running it. 
She launched the women’s section, wrote feature articles, edited 
pages and got a variety of executive experience. Helen Worden, 
Gretta Palmer, Phil Stong and Paul Sifton were all doing staff work 
for the Sunday section at the time. 

Mrs. Gould comes from Iowa. She edited the Daily Iowan at the 
University of Iowa and she and her husband, Bruce Gould, both 
did reportorial work on the Des Moines Tribune before moving 
East. While Mrs. Gould worked on the World her husband was on 
the Evening Post. They have collaborated successfully on short 
stories and plays— one of which was produced by the Theatre Guild 
in 1929. They now edit the Ladies Home Journal— a unique maga- 
zine appointment for husband and wife. 

Thirty years before Mrs. Gould became assistant Sunday editor of 
the World , Elizabeth Jordan was filling precisely the same post 
with Arthur Brisbane. It was not so sensational for a woman to hold 
an executive post of this sort in 1926, but it was in 1892, when Miss 
Jordan used to bedazzle the compositors by showing up in im- 
maculate shirt-waists and slinging type with an experienced hand. 
When everyone else was sweating and in a state of collapse from 
heat and overwork, Miss Jordan would look completely self-pos- 
sessed. At the end of a particularly frenzied night one of the edi- 
tors exclaimed ferociously as he waited for the elevator: “Good 
God! What a job. Can you imagine anything worse?” 

“Oh, yes,” laughed Miss Jordan, waving her dummy pages. “To 
lose it.” 

Miss Jordan was born in Milwaukee in 1867. Her mother was 
Spanish and Elizabeth was convent bred. She contributed to the 
Milwaukee, St. Paul and Chicago papers, and worked on the Chats- 
worth disaster for the Chicago Tribune. She went to the scene of 
the accident, and stayed for several days, helping to care for the 
injured. 

Miss Jordan came East in 1890 at the invitation of John A. Cock- 
erill. She made an impression from the first moment. She had an 
elaborate wardrobe and was dashing in appearance, and she man- 



178 Ladies of the Press 

aged to get into the most inaccessible places. She was never bothered 
with minor women’s page assignments, but combined the best fea- 
tures of the stunt age with sound writing. She tested the accommo- 
dations of jails and asylums, rode an engine cab, interviewed social 
leaders, and covered the news of the town. She traveled through the 
mountains of Virginia and Tennessee on horseback, fording rivers, 
climbing gorges, forcing her way through thick forest, her only 
companion a Negro guide. She visited a lonely mining camp in the 
mountains, in which no woman had ever set foot. Armed with a 
Spanish stiletto she explored the camps of the moonshiners and did 
a series for the Sunday World that was copied widely. 

When the Koch lymph treatment was first exploited she spent a 
night on Blackwell’s Island at the deathbed of a consumptive, so 
that she might write the story of the woman’s final struggle. The 
patient died at 3 a.m., holding on to Miss Jordan’s hand. Three 
hours later the story was written and turned in to the World. 

Miss Jordan had the balanced temperament invaluable in journal- 
ism. She was calm, sure in her judgment, humorous in her outlook. 
Ballard Smith, brilliant and irascible, gave her severe training. He 
taught her the importance of concentration and the value of terse 
language. At six o’clock one evening he threw a stack of papers on 
her desk and said, “Have this story ready for me when I come back.” 

Miss Jordan dug into the documents. It was the opening move 
in the long-drawn out prosecution of Carlyle Harris, the medical 
student accused in 1891 of poisoning Helen Potts, a girl whom he 
had secretly married while she was still in boarding school. There 
had been preliminary investigation and suspicion but no arrest. The 
youth had walked boldly into the office of De Lancey Nicoll, then 
District Attorney, to demand an inquiry so as to still the buzz of 
talk. But that night the World had the exclusive story that Harris 
was about to be arrested. The documents Mr. Smith threw on Miss 
Jordan’s desk were the affidavits of physicians and teachers, on the 
strength of which he was to be charged with murder. 

Miss Jordan went to work on the papers. She quickly got to the 
core of the subject and turned out columns in longhand. When Mr. 
Smith returned from dinner the story that astonished New York 
next morning was ready for his inspection. Harris was ultimately 
convicted. 

In the early nineties the World ran “True Stories of the News” 
every day, a feature which was revived again in its declining years. 
Miss Jordan wrote most of these, finding her material in hospitals, 
morgues, police courts and tenements. She embodied some of them 
later in her book, Tales from the City Room. As time went on Mr. 



Under the Gold Dome 179 

Smith took her on his staff of editorial writers and in April, 1892, 
she was appointed assistant Sunday editor, to work with Mr. Bris- 
bane. She remained with the World until 1899, when she was ap- 
pointed editor of Harper’s Bazaar. From 1912 to 1917 she was lit- 
erary adviser for Harper and Brothers. She resigned to work for 
Goldwyn Pictures. She has written a number of books, short stories 
and plays. 

Miss Jordan was one of the really notable newspaper women of 
the country, at a time when merit and recognition were a combina- 
tion not readily found among the women who had gained a foothold 
in Park Row. 



[ 180 ]: 


Chapter XV 

DOWN BY THE RIVER 


I T WAS GETTING CLOSE TO THE DEADLINE. THE FIRST EDITION OF THE 

New York American would soon be in. The rewrite men were 
busy over their typewriters, green eye-shades concealing the 
mockery of their faces. The city room was bright, noisy and clut- 
tered. Typewriters tinkled. There were explosive shouts of “Boy.” 

A blonde girl reporter sat at her desk, unconscious of the bed- 
lam, anxiously waiting for copy from T. P. O’Connor. Ruth Byers 
had been to see Tay Pay that afternoon. She had arrived before the 
reporters from the other papers, and had had a chance to talk to 
him alone. She told him frankly that she knew nothing about Irish 
politics. He laughed and said, “Young lady, I don’t know anything 
about Irish politics either, but I’ll try to help you out. When these 
other reporters come in, you just sit here and wait, and I shall write 
out something for you.” 

Miss Byers felt relieved. She had not been a reporter long. She 
was still at the trustful stage. When her competitors put solemn 
and knowing questions to Mr. O’Connor about the turbulent state 
of affairs in Ireland, she sat back calmly and viewed their efforts 
with the assurance that all would be well. 

She returned to her office. Evening fell. At eight o’clock there 
still was no word from Tay Pay. Just as she was beginning to give 
up hope a messenger arrived with six sheets of hotel stationery in 
handwriting that no one in the office could read. After a frantic 
effort to decipher even one line of it, Miss Byers got his secretary 
on the telephone. He taxied down to the American and glibly trans- 
lated Tay Pay’s views. Next morning she could not find a trace of 
her story in the paper. She went down to the office feeling crest- 
fallen. Her city editor greeted her with congratulations and told 
her she was getting a raise. 

“Great story. You beat the town,” he said. 

She was quite bewildered until he showed her the banner head on 
the story leading the paper. It had never occurred to her to look 
for one of her stories on the front page. Later that day Mr. O’Con- 



Down by the River 181 

nor telephoned and asked her to meet him at Grand Central Ter* 
minal. He arrived in a long flowing cape and kissed her hand in gal- 
lant farewell before an audience of commuters rushing for their 
trains. 

Soon after this Miss Byers was sent to Queens on an assignment 
and found herself locked in a room with a woman suddenly gone 
mad with grief over her domestic troubles. She greeted the reporter 
pleasantly enough and ushered her into her library. Once inside, she 
changed into a demon. She locked the door, put the key in her 
pocket and faced Miss Byers with blazing eyes. 

“I have been shadowed and trailed for months,” she cried. “I 
know you are a detective posing as a newspaper woman, but you 
will never get back to report anything on me.” 

She picked up a bronze lamp and hurled it at her visitor. The 
lamp cord spoiled her aim. But for the next two hours Miss Byers 
had to work frantically, trying to pacify the woman and dodge 
the things she threw. She thought she would never get out of the 
room alive. But the demented creature suddenly calmed down and 
collapsed. Miss Byers escaped, brought assistance and stayed long 
enough to see her regain consciousness. Before she left she had the 
interview she wanted. 

Then came the day when she was sent out to Sheepshead Bay 
Speedway to ride with “Gil” Anderson, just before the Astor Cup 
Races were run. She rode in an automobile at ioi miles a minute— 
the thrill of a lifetime. Next day Anderson won the cup race. Ten 
miles in six minutes was fast work for pre-war days. 

Another of her stunts was to walk on the bottom of the sea 
without a diving suit, and still keep dry. Captain Simon Lake had 
invented a tube device which made this possible. Miss Byers made 
the experiment off Bridgeport, Connecticut, picked up a horseshoe 
crab and came out quite dry to pose for her photographer. 

She covered Richard Harding Davis’s funeral, interviewed women 
when their sons and fathers were on the way to the electric chair, 
attended political conventions, gave advice to girls, wrote recipes, 
and acted as a handwriting expert, receiving 15,000 letters in one 
week from a public that thought her opinion of their handwriting 
mattered. 

She got her job through Talcott Williams, first dean of the 
Columbia School of Journalism. He gave her a personal letter of 
introduction to the city editor of the American. Her first signed 
story was an interview with Jess Willard on his return to New 
York after winning the heavyweight championship of the world. 

Miss Byers left the Hearst papers to do war work. She was ap- 
pointed director of publicity for the Y.W.C.A. and later launched 



1 82 Ladies of the Press 

the Phoenix News Publicity Bureau, the oldest women’s publicity 
organization in the country. She is now Mrs. Thomas D. Heed and 
lives in Chicago. 

War-time brought real opportunities to women reporters, as 
Grace Phelps soon found when she went to work for the Amer- 
ican. On the night that Becker died in the electric chair she was 
assigned to cover his wife. Mrs. Becker set out for Sing Sing by 
car. Miss Phelps pursued her and lost her in the traffic. She caught 
the first available train but found that it did not stop at Ossining. 

“It has got to stop,” she told the conductor. She explained her 
urgency. Everyone in the country knew that Becker was to die that 
night. His trial had been one of the sensations of the decade. Offi- 
cials on the train finally agreed that under the circumstances they 
would slow down for long enough to let her get off. 

When she left the train she was mobbed by reporters. They 
knew that Mrs. Becker was expected and they were sure that the 
train would stop for no one else. But Mrs. Becker’s car had broken 
down on the way. She arrived at about 2 a . m . and stayed with her 
husband until it was time for him to go to the chair. 

Miss Phelps wrote her story that night under great emotional 
stress. She hunched her elbows on her typewriter and could not 
think of a word to write. She was too upset. At last to her astonish- 
ment she found she was turning out verse, not prose. The theme 
was “Waiting, Waiting.” It was used next morning in her paper. 

Some time later she was sent to Westbury, Long Island, to inter- 
view Jacques Lebaudy, the millionaire son of a French sugar king. 
He was quite mad and thought himself Napoleon. She found him 
drilling a company of telegraph boys. This was his army. Mean- 
while his wife and daughter were starving in their house of fifty 
rooms known as “The Lodge.” Soon after this his wife shot the 
eccentric “Emperor of the Sahara,” as he was generally known, in 
defense of their thirteen-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. The murder 
took place on the night of January 11, 1919, and she was acquitted 
early in 1920. 

Miss Phelps staged a number of campaigns for the American. 
One was conducted on behalf of a young girl who was sent to the 
reformatory just before her baby was due to be bom. Her mother 
wrote to Mr. Hearst, pleading for newspaper backing so that her 
daughter could get married and thereby legitimatize the child. Miss 
Phelps was assigned to the case. She had three weeks in which to 
get the girl out of jail and married. She interested the women’s clubs. 
She badgered officials. She got committees working on it. The girl 
was released. The marriage was rushed before the child was bom. 
The paper set her up in housekeeping. It was one of the gestures that 



Down by the River 183 

newspapers make now and again, when they step aside from the 
usual business of purveying straightaway news. 

Again, when a poor Italian woman in the Bronx was convicted 
of murdering her husband, orders came down that Miss Phelps was 
“to save her from the electric chair.” She was the first woman in 
many years to be in actual danger of going to the chair in New 
York State. Miss Phelps summoned her dub backing. She got 
enough women together to fill a special car for Albany. They pre- 
sented the case to Governor Whitman. The woman’s sentence was 
commuted to life imprisonment. 

Miss Phelps investigated the flower-making industry and con- 
ducted a vice crusade, which led to threats against her life and gen- 
eral intimidation. A letter was sent to Robert McCabe, her city 
editor, ordering him to call her off the investigation or “she would 
get hers.” She continued to write the stories but her by-line was 
dropped for her own protection. 

Miss Phelps started newspaper work in Philadelphia on the North 
American and the old Philadelphia Press. After leaving the Ameri- 
can she did syndicate fiction and publicity. She now free-lances in 
Washington. Her husband, Edmond McKenna, is a newspaper man. 

On the night that Lebaudy was killed, Anne Dunlap of the Ameri- 
can, and Gene Fowler, one of the rarer souls of Park Row and now 
a successful author and screen writer, were sent out on the story. 
Gene got through a window and into the Emperor’s room. His 
collaborator wrote a number of stories about Mrs. Lebaudy, for 
whom there was much sympathy. 

Miss Dunlap was one of the more decorative members of the pro- 
fession, in addition to being extremely competent. Her manner was 
so impressive that she frequently got in where others failed. In 
March, 1919, she married John K. Winkler, a star on her own 
paper and now the author of several biographies. For several years 
she worked in the same city room as her husband, and sometimes 
on the same story. 

One of her stiflfest assignments came soon after she joined the 
staff. In January, 1918, the American troop transport Northern 
Pacific went aground off Fire Island with 3,000 persons aboard, 
most of them soldiers, sailors and marines. Many of the passengers 
were sick and wounded. Miss Dunlap had been out on New Year’s 
Eve covering an elopement for her paper. When she got back to her 
ofKce she was rushed to Bay Shore, Long Island, without so much as 
a toothbrush. She was to assist Martin Green, who was in charge of 
the story. There was only one wire to the mainland and the A.P. had 
it sewed up. Miss Dunlap stayed at a tiny hotel at Bay Shore, and 
went out in an oyster boat at six o’clock in freezing weather for 



184 Ladies of the Press 

two mornings to watch the rescue work going on. The fog was 
dense. Most of the passengers were taken off in lifeboats. The sea 
was so rough that the surf boats of the life guards were constantly 
in danger of capsizing. The hospital ship Solace stood by and the 
passengers were transferred to it, but it was a slow and painful 
process. The weather was bitterly cold, with lashing blasts of sleet. 
The reporters worked under difficulties, and with real physical 
hardship. Miss Dunlap was soaked to the skin repeatedly, half frozen 
and caked with icicles. Her work on this occasion was so good that 
inquiries were made about her at the Herald , and Victor Watson, her 
managing editor, immediately offered her a three-year contract. 

She soon learned what it was to stay up all night in court; to go 
without food or sleep; to wait for hours outside jails and homes 
visited by trouble. In the spring of 1922 she was sent to Mount 
Holly, New Jersey, to cover a circus murder. “Honest John” 
Brunen had been killed by a shotgun fired through the window of 
his home as he sat in his kitchen reading a paper. He was a wealthy 
circus owner. His wife and her brother, Harry C. Mohr, were tried 
for the murder. Mrs. Brunen was acquitted. Mohr was convicted. 

The witnesses were a strange parade of circus figures— clowns, 
lion tamers, tight rope walkers. The gold wheels of the circus 
caravan rattled through the the testimony. Miss Dunlap, Julia Harp- 
man and a third woman reporter wired ahead for their rooms to 
the one hotel in town. When they arrived they were all ushered 
into one vast chamber with honeycomb bedspreads and scrim 
curtains. 

“As you were all newspaper ladies, we thought you would like 
to be together,” said the proprietor. “Anyway, we haven’t another 
room.” 

They happened to be friends, so they bunked together. They 
had dinner close to midnight every night in the dark dining-room 
after they had filed thousands of words to their papers. One night 
the wires came down in a snowstorm and one of the girls had to 
trarpp miles through the snow along the railroad track to file her 
story from a signal tower. Her copy was interrupted every few 
minutes for train signals. 

When Mrs. Stillman took baby Guy and fled to Lakewood, New 
Jersey, immediately after her husband filed his sensational charges 
against her, Miss Dunlap was assigned to follow her and get an 
interview. For a month she and her colleagues stood guard at 
Laurel-in-the-Pines, waiting for a glimpse of Mrs. Stillman. She ig- 
nored their notes, refused flatly to see them, and never emerged from 
her room lest the photographers spot her. Guy was only permitted 
to get an airing under heavy guard. 



Down by the River 185 

Early one morning she ditched them completely. She motored 
away from Lakewood before dawn and went to Poughkeepsie, 
where John E. Mack, her counsel and guardian ad litem for Guy, 
arranged an interview for the men who had been waiting there, 
while the newspaper women had been trailing her at Lakewood. 
This was a bad moment for the ladies of the press. Mrs. Stillman 
soon realized what she had done, and invited them up to Pough- 
keepsie for tea. But the cream had been skimmed from the story. 
The first interview had made the front pages without their assist- 
ance. However, by this time she was talking freely. Mr. Mack had 
advised her that she could help her cause by getting sympathetic 
publicity. So she went amiably to the daisy fields in gypsy costume 
and posed for the photographers from any angle they suggested, and 
even with her arm around a cow’s neck. She never shunned the 
headlines again, although often they must have made her wince. 

This was one of the last big stories that Miss Dunlap covered be- 
fore leaving newspaper work. She was launched in Birmingham, 
Alabama, in 1915. She had taught for three years in a county high 
school. Her pupils were older than she, for she was only sixteen 
when she started. Their chief interest was the rotation of the crops. 
Her own tastes were urban. So she determined to change her pro- 
fession. She worked for seven months on the Birmingham Ledger and 
then attended the Columbia School of Journalism as a summer stu- 
dent. She edited Teachers College Record for {25 a week and con- 
tinued her studies at the same time. Then Franklin P. Glass, who 
was editor-in-chief of the Birmingham News from 1910 to 1920, 
offered her a job on his paper. He was a friend of her father’s. 

She went back and worked there for a year and a half. America 
had entered the war. The staff men were all leaving for army serv- 
ice. Miss Dunlap was doing relief operator duty one day when she 
heard a man’s voice mumbling a strange story over the telephone. 
He had just left the state penitentiary after serving nineteen years 
of a twenty-year sentence for the murder of his wife. A little late 
to do him much good, his wife had turned up alive in Alaska, with 
another husband and a child. Miss Dunlap called the head of the 
composing room and told him what was coming. Then she got the 
warden of the penitentiary on the telephone and found that a man 
bearing the name of her unknown informant had been a prisoner 
there. She was sure the story was true. She rushed it for the bulldog 
edition, wrote the headlines herself, and beat the town with the 
story. It was a skilful piece of work. 

Not long afterwards she came to New York, because her mother 
was ill and needed her. She decided she would try her luck on Park 
Row. She landed on the American , where she soon became the 



1 86 Ladies of the Press 

ranking woman star and one of the best women reporters of the 
period. Ultimately she left journalism and is now a senior in the 
interior decorating department of Macy’s. She is remarried to 
W. Wallace Clements. 

Working with her at the same time was Ruth Dayton, an attrac- 
tive girl whose first big assignment was the trial of Olivia Stone. 
She left newspaper work to go on the stage. Another contemporary 
of Miss Dunlap’s was Geraldine Fitch, who survived innumerable 
shake-ups in her office and covered more types of story than most 
girls ever get a chance to tackle. She is now Countess Morner, 
having married Count Gosta Morner, whom she met on a story. 
One day early in 1930 her city editor handed her a letter and 
clipping. The letter said that Count Felix von Luckner, the “Sea- 
Devil,” would tell reporters about a trip he proposed making, if 
they went that afternoon to his yacht, the Mopelia. The clipping 
said that Count Morner of Sweden was visiting Count von Luckner 
aboard his yacht. 

“See what Luckner has to say,” said her city editor to Miss Fitch, 
“and ask Count Morner why neither he nor Peggy Hopkins Joyce 
has married again since they were divorced years ago.” 

Count Morner told Miss Fitch that he had every reason to dislike 
newspaper people, but that if she would wait for a week he would 
give her a good story. They met often after that. He did not give 
her the promised story until she wrote up her own engagement to 
him to make a feature for a dull Labor Day. Late in September, 
1930, she became the Countess Gosta Morner av Morlanda in the 
Municipal Building. They observed the Swedish custom— two gold 
rings for the bride, one for the groom, who also has a gold chain 
soldered around his left wrist. Some of her friends from the Ameri- 
can office were to attend the ceremony, but as they were leaving, 
a story broke, and they went back again. In this way it was a typical 
newspaper wedding. 

Miss Fitch was thoroughly versed in all the ins and outs, whims 
and sacred cows of the Hearst organization. She loved the speakeasy 
hours of happy companionship, the stimulus of working among the 
unconventional and talented men of the press. She had listened to 
Joe Mulvaney, one of the ablest of the lot, offer his sage advice to 
each new girl coming into the office. For Mr. Mulvaney has been 
father confessor to many girl reporters, advising them, fixing up 
their copy, annihilating them with his criticism. Like Robert B. 
Peck, of the Herald Tribune, he can write circles around any of 
them on a genuine sob story. 

Miss Fitch took it all in when she first landed on the American 
after studying music in Chicago and appearing in the opera chorus 



Down by the River 187 

with Mary Garden as director. Her first assignment had been a free- 
lance piece for the Globe on opera from behind the scenes. She was 
told that if she were patient she might get a job on the staff, but her 
funds ran out and she joined the musical comedy, Two Little Girls 
in Blue , as a show girl. Jack Donahue was the star. She went on the 
road with it and came back in 1922. She badgered Victor Watson 
for a job for eight weeks and soon found herself working for Mr. 
Mulvaney, who was getting out the tabloid section enclosed in each 
issue of the American, . Her salary was $50 a week. 

For a year she wrote special columns and fillers. In that hall of 
wonders, the composing room, she learned about make-up and 
editing— how to cut chunks out of a famous author’s serial and still 
have it make sense; how to read copy and write heads. Finally 
Martin Dunn took her over on the city staff and she soon learned 
how sharp and bitter life can be for people touched by the news. 
The usual number of doors were slammed in her face. She tramped 
dark and lonely roads at night, to visit houses stamped by tragedy. 
She cultivated lawyers handling big divorce cases. She comforted 
a demented Russian princess and a less demented chambermaid, both 
of whom eventually wound up in Bellevue psychopathic ward, 
calling for her. She interviewed every sort of celebrity; rushed out 
on fires; covered murder trials eagerly; worked on Christmas Day 
and holidays; tossed verbal roses at political friends of the paper and 
stepped on the toes of its enemies; stole the wrong picture and had 
a damage suit slapped on the paper when it was published. She with- 
stood all manner of shake-ups in a temperamental organization. 

Once she climbed tenement stairs to tell a mother that her lost 
little boy had been found— dead in a dank cellar. The woman was 
young and pretty and she had five other children. She clung to 
Miss Fitch, asking her what she would do if it had happened to her. 

When she went to get a story on a bootleg king in Rockaway, 
his wife turned three police dogs loose on her and Josephine Hig- 
gins, a photographer from her paper. Before they reached their taxi 
their clothes were partially tom off. They were clawed and chewed 
and the camera was smashed. But they protected the plates. 

When she interviewed Dr. Raymond L. Ditmars in the Bronx 
Zoo Reptile House he put the snakes through their hisses and strikes 
for her benefit. Then he quietly wrapped a slithery black snake 
around her neck. It looped harmlessly, while her photographer took 
a picture of the petrified girl reporter embraced by a snake. 

On Easter Sunday, 1930, she was assigned to get a piece of the 
dress from a young woman’s body, just found in the East River, 
on the chance that the pattern, if photographed, might lead to her 



1 88 Ladies of the Press 

identification. She made her way through a line of bodies in the 
morgue, young and old, male and female; heard a voice singing 
“Love, thy magic spell is everywhere” and found the singer— a 
blonde, cheery attendant singing at her work on the body Miss 
Fitch sought. 

She made notes on what she saw. She cut a piece from the dress 
lying nearby. It was a rusty black. She carried it away. The body 
turned out to be that of Anna Urbas— garroted and drowned by 
gangsters. She was the friend of Eugene Moran, a bodyguard of 
Arnold Rothstein. She had been sunk with a necklace of iron 
weights. Moran had been murdered some months earlier and the 
theory was that the slayers feared she might squeal. 

By the end of four years Miss Fitch had had broad and varied 
experience. In between staff assignments she did dramatic and mo- 
tion picture criticism. When the Christmas Fund was being built up 
into a large charity, she publicized it. And she was always requisi- 
tioned for art. During her years on the American the art market was 
at its height. The Anderson Galleries had brilliant nights and the 
American Art Association held sales of magnificent art collections 
from all over the world, surpassed only by Christy’s. Mr. Hearst 
insisted that these sales should be covered in a certain way. Catalog 
numbers, articles, buyers and prices were all listed. Different re- 
porters had muffed the job and he made many complaints. As he 
followed the subject closely, nothing could evoke panic in the city 
desk like an art auction. From the time she went on the American 
until she left Miss Fitch covered these auctions, and even when she 
had a chance to do a big story, she was held in reserve if an art sale 
loomed. The sales were exciting in themselves. The auditorium was 
packed with millionaires. Bids rose to a quarter of a million dollars. 
The peak was reached with the Reifsnyder sale of early American 
furniture. When she saw the name W. W. Wood, she always knew 
that Mr. Hearst was buying. He did not care at all for modem or 
Oriental art, but bought rare Italian and Spanish pieces at any price. 
And he acquired some magnificent books. 

Like all of her colleagues at one time or another, Miss Fitch went 
through the torture of having an assignment she had hoped to get 
handed to someone else; of seeing her own story being quietly re- 
written by the third man on the rewrite desk; of being recalled from 
a front-page story to take over a stupid feature; of being scooped 
cold. But she also did her share of scooping. She, too, rewrote 
someone else’s story; learned the delights of praise, of a by-line in 
large type, of the good story pasted on the bulletin board, followed 
by a raise. 

Miss Fitch left the American in the spring of 1931. Her next as- 



Down by the River 189 

signment was to cover the Lenz-Culbertson Bridge tournament for 
Clyde West of Universal Service. She did not tell Mr. West she 
knew nothing about bridge. Her husband is an expert. He provided 
her with precise data throughout the tournament, which she sent 
in a continuous flow over the telegraph wire. She now writes ad- 
vertising commercials and radio continuity. 

Miss Fitch is tall, exotic-looking, red-haired, with the reposeful 
manner of a figure in an Italian primitive. She was followed on the 
staff by Helen Nolan, small, dark and pretty, who met her hus- 
band, Edward J. Neil of the Associated Press, while they were both 
covering the first Lake George marathon swim. She scooped him 
on the story and then they fell in love. Miss Nolan was working for 
the Albany Evening News at the time. Mr. Neil had come over from 
Saratoga with Jack Dempsey, who was then in training for a ring 
come-back. 

The marathon involved a mad newspaper scramble for telephones 
along the shores of the lake, which went on for a day and a night. 
Thunderstorms wrecked the wires. Swimmers kept getting lost. The 
reporters had no time for rest or food. They worked with the fine 
frenzy which besets the press on an occasion of this sort. It was not 
the perfect moment for romance. But Miss Nolan, less wistfully help- 
less than she looked, beat the seasoned Mr. Neil and the A.P. with a 
flash on the finish of the race as dawn broke. Then she went to 
breakfast with Mr. Neil and love bloomed in its mysterious way. 
Six months later, after she had come to New York and gone to work 
on the Mirror, Miss Nolan married her newspaper competitor. 

On another occasion she swam a mile in the Hudson River with 
Lottie Schoemmell in bitter December weather. Lottie wore a coat 
of grease instead of a bathing suit. Miss Nolan just escaped pneu- 
monia. She is an expert swimmer, a graduate of the Sargent School 
for Physical Education. She intended to teach swimming in Nassau 
for a season when by chance she found herself covering society 
for an Albany paper at $15 a week. 

When she came to New York she free-lanced for the Post , worked 
for two years on the Mirror and then moved over to the American, 
where she still is. When Frances St. John Smith disappeared from 
Smith College she spent six weeks haunting the campus, disguised 
as a student in a rented coonskin coat and bandana. Reporters were 
kept off the premises but Miss Nolan looked the perfect student 
type as she rattled around in her open galoshes and sickened herself 
with chocolate fudge, cementing her news sources over the teacups. 

When Justice Joseph F. Crater disappeared, she followed clues 
all over northern New York State and into Canada. She wound up 



190 Ladies of the Press 

at Belgrade Lakes, Maine, where she and Mrs. Crater were the only 
summer survivors for a period of six weeks. 

She went to Hollywood to chaperon Miss New York, who had 
won a Mary Pickford jaunt as a typical girl. She proved to be 
typical in everything except her appetite. She gorged her way across 
the continent, and arrived in California ten pounds overweight. At 
nearly every stop Miss Nolan had to drag her away from the sta- 
tion lunch counter. Finally she got her back to New York, plump 
and frustrated. Miss New York had not landed in the movies. 

Miss Nolan worked on the Lindbergh kidnapping and the Haupt- 
mann trial. She also did angles on the Morro Castle disaster, the 
murder of Jack Diamond and the O’Connell kidnapping. She is a 
clever digger and investigator as well as a good reporter. Her be- 
guiling looks open many doors for her, and she knows how to follow 
a clue to a dead end. 

Newspaper girls come and go with astonishing frequency in the 
Hearst offices, shine or fade, marry or go into some other kind of 
work. Pearl Gross, who did capable work for the paper in the 
early twenties, is in Hollywood. The glamorous Anne S. Kinsolving 
is now Mrs. John Nicholas Brown and lives in Providence, Rhode 
Island. Viola Rodgers, no less stunning, lives in a villa in France. 
Ann Carr, a Follies beauty, Helena Fox, and Antoinette Spitzer, 
are all married and out of the newspaper game. Belle Kanter 
is doing publicity. Helen Morgan, who came from California and 
worked on the Hauptmann trial, has returned to her native state. 
Mignon Bushel, daughter of Hyman Bushel, the lawyer, is still doing 
exposes and crusades for the paper. Florence Wessels, a graduate of 
the San Francisco Examiner , is learning to know the town as only a 
reporter knows it. 

The girls of yesterday are soon forgotten but the flow of news 
goes on to the same tune. Murders, trials, kidnappings, lost babies, 
Easter parades, love triangles. When nightfall comes the girls sit at 
their desks, smoke cigarettes, discuss the story of the day. Through 
the waterfront windows the river looks soft, the lights are blurred. 
Over the two bridges crossing the East River slip the rush-hour trains 
—like illuminated link bracelets, like water mocassins. By and by the 
presses roar. An ephemeral world, an exciting world, known only to 
the ladies of the press and the men with whom they work. 



[ 191 ] 


Chapter XVI 
TWO ACES 


W hen Colonel Lindbergh circled over Le Bourget 
after his trans-Atlantic flight Jane Dixon was swept the 
entire length of the landing field on the crest of a 
howling human wave. A moment earlier she had been standing with 
John O’Brien of the United Press and her husband, Major W. H. 
Wells. 

All three were separated when the mob rushed the iron fence as 
though it were papier-mache. A few minutes later they found them- 
selves together again, under the landed plane. Miss Dixon had fought 
her way through many mobs in the course of a long and spectacular 
newspaper career, but she had never seen anything like this. All the 
cyclists of France seemed to be underfoot, adding wire spokes to the 
general confusion. 

She lost her stockings, a shoe and a new hat, just bought on the 
rue de la Paix. She was scratched with bicycle spokes and pulled to 
pieces. Somehow or other she struggled back to the U.P. head- 
quarters and wrote her story. It was an historic moment and the 
reporters worked with the savage intensity that besets them when an 
action story is at its height. Then they are at their best-quick, 
ingenious, clear-headed and fluent. 

Miss Dixon had been waiting for hours in the Aviation Club at 
Le Bourget, sharing the general belief that Lindbergh must be lost. 
Then came the flash that his plane had been sighted over Ireland. 
When it was reported nearing the field the reporters went down into 
the enclosure inside the huge iron fence which kept the mob back. 
They heard the motor— a faint roar in the night sky— then saw the 
lights. The plane circled like a bird and swooped. The crowd mur- 
mured, then surged forward with Gallic shouts of welcome. Miss 
Dixon remembered little else until she was under the plane and look- 
ing for the young man who had just announced: “I am Charles 
Lindbergh.” 

A decade later she sat in a stuffy court room in Flemington, New 
Jersey, watching the same young man, older, more grave, sitting 



192 Ladies of the Press 

with folded arms listening to the testimony that edged Hauptmann, 
his son’s slayer, closer to the electric chair. Again she was covering 
for the United Press, this time beside Sydney Whipple, Harry Fergu- 
son and James Austin. As her copy flowed in, Earl Johnson, at the 
New York end, kept sending her such messages over the teletype as: 
“Good work, Jane. Keep your foot on the gas.” 

Miss Dixon has always known how to keep her foot on the gas. 
Few have equaled her at the job. Her experience might well make 
any newspaper novice gnash her teeth with envy. For years she 
has had a front seat at every story that mattered. She worked for 
the old Telegram , under Andy Ford, who is still her favorite editor. 
She did trials, interviews, prize fights, conventions, spectacles of 
every sort. She did them with dash and a highly dramatized style. 
Her tolerance, good nature and sound approach endeared her to 
the men and women of her profession. Nowadays she goes out only 
on the really sensational story when the United Press, which does 
not employ a woman in New York, assigns her, as they did on the 
Lindbergh case. 

When the baby was kidnapped Miss Dixon was rushed out to 
Hopewell, where reporters were converging from everywhere. This 
time she was covering for NANA. She managed to wheedle Paul 
Gebhart, whose hotel became the gathering place of the press forces, 
into letting her have the hired girl’s room, second floor rear. But 
the telephone company’s minions moved in while she was out on her 
first scouting trip. They knocked down partitions and installed a 
double row of telephones, twelve on each side, just outside her 
door. In the furious days that followed, news writers screamed and 
babbled over these phones at all hours of the day and night. But this 
did not dismay Miss Dixon. She can turn out her copy with plaster 
falling on her head, voices roaring in her ear, typewriters jingling on 
all sides, and still her sentences parse and the picture is authentic. 
For she is probably the calmest practitioner of her craft. She has 
never been known to rush or turn frantic under stress. She goes 
along with a fine sense of balance that is more effective than the do 
or* die technique. 

Fifty-four hours after her arrival in Hopewell she washed her 
face for the first time since leaving home and got a little sleep. 
Meantime she had been in the side cars of motorcycles, on sound 
movie trucks, bumping over the trails of Sourland Mountain in 
vintage automobiles, and had even taken a short airplane hop to 
Hartford, Connecticut, and back. The weeks that followed the 
disappearance of the Lindbergh baby have rarely been equalled in 
newspaper tension. 

Miss Dixon married Major Wells, affectionately known to the 



Tux? Aces 193 

press as “Cappy” Wells, on the Saturday preceding the opening of 
the Snyder-Gray trial. Next day she did her advance story for 
Monday’s paper. She almost missed her honeymoon altogether as 
a result of this case. Her paper assured her that it would be over in 
two weeks at the most. But it took as long as that to fill the jury 
box. She and Major Wells missed half a dozen ships to Europe. 

She saw Ruth Snyder convicted, and finished her work on the 
case at four o’clock one Thursday morning. They sailed at ten. Her 
colleagues from the trial went down to the ship to see them off. 
They were bedraggled, half hysterical from weariness, lack of sleep 
and relief that the job was finally over. The French Line gave the 
bride and bridegroom a sailing party. The ship was delayed fifteen 
minutes while frantic Frenchmen tried to persuade the boys and 
girls of the press to leave the gangplank. 

One of Miss Dixon’s most unusual newspaper experiences was 
when she was attached as correspondent to Pancho Villa’s Army in 
northern Mexico. Floyd Gibbons was a member of the party of 
writers, artists and officials on the Villa private car attached to 
various troop trains. They were traveling through the desert when 
the train jerked to a stop. A bridge ahead of them had just been 
blown up. They had to wait until repairs were made. 

Miss Dixon liked Pancho. He was the only General she ever met 
who could wear as official uniform an old pair of wrinkled cotton 
trousers, a boiled shirt without a collar, a large diamond button in 
his neckband, an African sun-helmet, and still get away with it. 
And Miss Dixon knows the army. She now lives at Fort Hamilton, 
right in the thick of it. 

She was one of the first newspaper women to cover the big prize 
fights, and she always wrote exciting stories about them. She saw 
Dempsey win his championship from Willard in Toledo and lose it 
to Gene Tunney at Philadelphia in torrents of rain. She covered 
every Dempsey bout except the one in Shelby. When Firpo knocked 
him out of the ring Dempsey was headed for Miss Dixon’s type- 
writer but Jack Lawrence caught him first. 

She covered tennis at Forest Hills, racing at Kentucky, Saratoga 
and the New York tracks, Sir Thomas Lipton’s yacht races, the 
football games and the World Series. In short, everything that went 
on around the town was graphically chronicled by Miss Dixon. 
She did hundreds of interviews of every sort. She went down the 
Bay as regularly as celebrities arrived. She learned to turn out her 
copy under every conceivable set of circumstances. She juggled ad- 
jectives with an experienced touch. 

It was her early ambition to be a trained nurse. Her mother wanted 
her to stay at home. There wa.s no compromise so Jane became a 



194 Ladies of the Press 

newspaper woman. Mrs. Warren G. Harding started her on her 
way. Miss Dixon comes from Ohio. When she was just beginning, 
Mrs. Harding was business manager of her husband’s paper, the 
Marion Daily Star. She helped and sponsored Jane, when the towns- 
people frowned on her for being unwomanly enough to write pieces 
for the paper. A girl reporter was something new in Marion. Years 
later, when Warren Harding became President, Miss Dixon caused 
consternation among her colleagues by getting exclusive stories from 
the President’s wife. 

After several months on the Marion paper, she worked on the 
Poughkeepsie Star. She traveled to New York one day and dropped 
in at the Telegram office. She knew no one there, but she was told 
to take the woman’s page and write her opinion of every story on it. 
She was to send in the result at her leisure. She sat down in the 
outer office and did the job on the spot. That was on a Thursday. 
On the following Saturday she got a wire asking her to report for 
work on Monday. She went in on Sunday, fearing her benefactor 
might change his mind over the week-end. 

Miss Dixon was a success from the start. Soon she became one of 
the ranking women feature writers of the country. She had a fluent, 
easy touch. It was as natural for her to write as to breathe. She went 
to the political conventions. She saw Harding nominated in Chicago 
and heard Franklin D. Roosevelt make the nominating speech for 
Alfred E. Smith in old Madison Square Garden. She did running 
copy and interviews at the Disarmament Conference in Washington 
along with Mary Roberts Rinehart. She has written six newspaper 
fiction serials and she now does a column for the Bell Syndicate. 

During the Hall-Mills trial in Somerville Miss Dixon lived with 
Julia McCarthy, then of the Journal , now of the News , in a one- 
room cold water apartment over Charles K. Levy’s clothing store 
on Main Street. A dog in the backyard bayed at the moon most 
of the night. It was then time for the baby in the adjoining flat 
to start yelling. The two exhausted newspaper women who wrote 
without a break from four in the afternoon until one o’clock in the 
morning, rolled over wearily and prepared to face another day in 
court. In addition to covering for their own papers, they were filing 
special stories to half a dozen out-of-town papers. 

But in spite of the exhaustion and physical hardship of the game, 
excitement keeps the newspaper woman going during a story of this 
kind. Time and again Miss McCarthy has worked the round of the 
clock and still turned in sparkling copy for her paper. Like Miss 
Dixon, she is one of the pereonalities of the profession. For years she 
has been in the front row on the major news stories. In some respects 
she resembles Rusty McGowan, Paul Gallico’s newspaper heroine. 



Two Aces 195 

She is big, courageous, sharp at repartee, warm-hearted, always over 
the fire lines when there is trouble. She can handle the dowager or 
the policeman, and has often proved the point that the intelligent 
reporter can talk down opposition. She prefers the front door 
method but has also been known to use the fire escape and she is one 
of the best fact-getters in the business. Her record of exclusive stories 
is impressive. She isn’t one of the meek who take easy snubbing. 
The doorman and butler are usually forced to surrender in a battle 
of wits. If they don’t, she is apt to out-smart them. 

At the funeral of Mrs. Alice G wynne Vanderbilt the press was 
barred. But Miss McCarthy and Lady Terrington, of the Mirror, 
marched with complete assurance into the house. They went up to 
the second floor ballroom, without stopping to reconnoiter. 

“I am slightly hard of hearing,” Miss McCarthy confided to a 
footman. “Please put me well forward. I wish to hear dear Bishop 
Stires.” 

The two reporters were placed immediately behind the family. 
They bowed their heads and wisely refrained from producing copy 
paper. Miss McCarthy followed the funeral party to New Dorp 
Cemetery on Staten Island, where the Vanderbilts are buried. She 
had a camera man with her and they were after pictures. 

They wandered about among the graves until they came on a 
gardener, raking up leaves. 

“Oh, just to think that Staten Islanders like us never saw where 
the Vanderbilts are buried!” said Miss McCarthy artfully. 

The gardener showed them the way. The flowers were being 
taken out of the mausoleum. He ushered them in. The photographer 
took his flashlights with speed. Then he and Miss McCarthy van- 
ished among the tombstones. 

Her most spectacular work was done in the summer of 1935 on 
the suit involving the same Mrs. Vanderbilt’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. 
Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, over the custody of her child. She got 
one beat after another for her paper on what might be called the 
perfect tabloid story. Reduced to its simplest form it had all the 
elements that fitted the frame. Big names. Mother love. Wealth. Gay 
doings in high society. Actually it was a grim and nauseating 
struggle. 

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s eye first lighted with interest on Miss Mc- 
Carthy when Julia walked up to her after Emma S. Keislich, little 
Gloria’s nurse, had told of her spying operations in her employer’s 
home. 

“Where did you find her?” she demanded of Mrs. Vanderbilt. 
“If you had searched the whole world over, you couldn’t have found 
a worse biddy.” 



196 Ladies of the Press 

Mrs. Vanderbilt smiled vaguely and made no response. But two 
nights later Miss McCarthy got word that she wanted to see her. 

“You endeared yourself to me for life by what you said in court,” 
she announced. 

From that time on Miss McCarthy had the inside trail on the story. 
She was able to get hold of Mrs. Vanderbilt at any hour of the day 
or night. She went to her house practically every evening. Often 
she anticipated the news. She was the first to spring the story that 
a cash payment had been offered for little Gloria. She learned in 
advance that the child was going to take the stand and be the key 
witness. When Gloria paid her first visit to her mother after the suit 
was brought into court, Miss McCarthy was allowed to talk to the 
little girl, and her cameraman took pictures of her in her home. 
Week after week the News ran stunning and intimate poses of 
the child, obtained by Miss McCarthy, who was allowed to select 
all she wanted from Mrs. Vanderbilt’s own stock of photographs 
taken at all ages. She carried them to her office in their jade, silver 
and leather frames. This was priceless for a picture paper. 

She had two exclusive interviews with Mrs. Laura K. Morgan, 
mother of Mrs. Vanderbilt and Lady Furness, in which she spoke 
slightingly of her daughters. Then her paper scooped the town with 
the transcript of the testimony taken secretly in the case. This 
rounded out a sensationally good job of covering a big scandal story. 

Miss McCarthy is at her best on an assignment of this kind. She is 
smart at making and keeping contacts. She knows how to outwit her 
rivals. She works with the energy of ten and spills a clever line of 
satire when the story lends itself to caustic treatment. 

She was sent to Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on a hex murder in 1934, 
to write about a boy who was jailed for murdering a reputed 
witch. She learned that he had a girl named Selanie, who lived deep 
in the fog of the slate-colored valley. She went to see her, for she 
wanted a picture of the girl. She also wanted to outdo the reports in 
the Journal that the witch had crucified cats on the side of a bam. 

She had no difficulty on this score. The hex-conscious neighbors 
outdid themselves in telling her lurid tales. They insisted that the 
witch had left her coffin before the burial and was roaming the 
hills at that moment in the guise of a black cat, leaving three toads 
in the coffin for burial. But it was no joke getting Selanie’s picture. 

The girl said she couldn’t pose unless Paw and Maw agreed. Julia 
and Selanie then set out to find Maw. And when they found her she 
said they would still have to see Paw. They traveled around until 
they met Paw, but he had a big shotgun on his shoulder. When told 
what Miss McCarthy was after, he glowered and said, “Get out— I’m 
gonna shoot yo’ hat off.” 



Two Aces 197 

“Ho, don’t do that,” said blue-eyed Miss McCarthy, looking very 
bold, although her knees were bumping. “It’s the only one I’ve got.” 

Paw compromised. “All right,” he agreed. “Then I’m gonna shoot 
yo’ head off.” 

“Don’t do that, either.” 

Miss McCarthy used her persuasive Celtic tongue. Maw talked 
to Paw, too. Finally Maw thought of the solution. She turned to her 
visitor and said, “There’s one way you can get that picture. Selanie 
needs a new Easter outfit. If you fix her up you can take her 
picture.” 

Miss McCarthy looked at her photographer and he looked at her. 
An Easter outfit! Could it be done? Would the office stand for all 
this expense? 

“Well,” said Miss McCarthy, “how much will it be?” 

Paw and Maw put their heads together and began figuring. Julia 
and the photographer found that they had $80 between them, but 
they were supposed to make that last for several days. If the Easter 
outfit came to more than that, they were sunk. 

Maw turned to Julia at last. “Wal,” she said, “she’ll need a hat and 
some shoes and a dress and some stockings and a slip.” 

“Yes,” said Miss McCarthy urgently, “and how much will 
that be?” 

“Wal,” said Maw triumphantly, “it’ll be all of five dollars.” 

Julia successfully concealed her relief. “It’s a go,” she said. 

Paw dropped the shotgun, the picture was taken, Selanie got her 
Easter wardrobe and there was rejoicing all around. 

But Miss McCarthy has wriggled out of tighter spots than this. 
During the Snyder-Gray case she, Irene Kuhn and Oliver H. P. 
Garrett were all arrested in a Connecticut town for the somewhat 
obscure crime of bunching. 

Judd Gray’s wife had gone to South Norwalk to stay with her 
sister, whose husband was a local official. The three reporters fol- 
lowed her. They drove to the house and saw her standing in the 
yard. They decided to dismiss their car and form some sort of 
plan for approaching her. They walked along the sidewalk three 
abreast. They had not gone near her or even rung the doorbell when 
a policeman walked up and said he was going to arrest them. 

“Arrest me?” said Miss McCarthy indignantly. “I dare you to.” 

“Don’t be foolish,” said Mr. Garrett soothingly, but Julia still 
seethed. 

However, they were taken into custody and were charged with 
bunching in the street, under an old Connecticut law which forbids 
blocking the sidewalk. They were run out of town and were told 
that they must never under any circumstances appear there again. 



198 Ladies of the Press 

“Positively not,” said Julia, fit to be tied. 

They were escorted to the train by a bodyguard. 

“You will never come back,” their guard insisted as he pushed the 
savages from New York onto the train. 

“Sir, we will never come back,” Julia assured him, swinging into 
the carriage and dusting herself off. 

On the night that Ruth Snyder died, Miss McCarthy, who was 
then on the Journal , was one of the newspaper women who waited 
outside the prison while a huge crowd made shocking whoopee at 
the gates. It might have been a carnival instead of an execution. 
There was a screaming mob of more than 2,000. There were cars 
with licenses from five different states. Boys in raccoon coats with 
bottles of gin in their pockets sat in parked roadsters. This was still 
the hip flask era. There were children and Boy Scouts. Vendors 
sold hot dogs and popcorn. It was like a Roman holiday. The crowd 
waited for the lights to flicker, but the electric chair is on a separate 
current. The lights outside do not flicker when someone dies at 
Sing Sing. 

The most seasoned reporters were startled by the antics of this 
ghoulish crowd. Brick Terrett, a tall red-headed youth from Mon- 
tana and one of the abler members of his profession, came out after 
it was over. He had seen Ruth die in the chair. 

“Julia, for God’s sake, take a walk with me,” he said to Miss 
McCarthy. “Talk to me about anything. My God, she looked so 
little.” 

Another man who had come out with him from witnessing the 
same scene vomited on the spot. 

Miss McCarthy was on the Journal for ten years— from 1918 to 
1928. She was Margery Rex, a busy girl who did news, features, 
dramatic criticism and, in the beginning, illustrated her own work. 
She got liberal experience during the gaudy days of crime, gangsters, 
night clubs, visiting celebrities, cults and other manifestations of 
the boom era. 

She comes from Chicago, where she studied at the Chicago Art 
Institute. In 1917, when she was a full-fledged commercial artist 
with a studio, she dined one night with a group of Chicago news- 
paper men who were going to war. They happened to remark on 
the striking appearance of a waitress in the place. 

“Look at her hands, she must be somebody,” said one of the men. 

“She is,” said Julia and told them her story. 

She had noticed the distinguished looking man who came to the 
restaurant every night to take the girl home. The pair engaged her 
interest to such an extent that she followed them one night, learned 
who they were, where they lived, and something about their history. 



Two Aces 199 

“That rates a job on a paper,” said one of the reporters. “If you 
would do that for fun, just think what you would do on a story.” 

He saw to it that she got a newspaper job. In this way she entered 
journalism. She had her baptism in a fiercely competitive field. She 
worked sixteen hours a day on a Chicago paper, covering children’s 
court and domestic relations during the day, then chasing stories and 
pictures of war heroes from dinnertime until midnight. Many of the 
families lived in the foreign quarter of Chicago. Miss McCarthy 
soon gave up trying words and gestures to get what she wanted. She 
simply took the elegant crayon enlargements, frames and all, off 
the walls, and galloped for the car lines with enraged families in 
pursuit. 

After a few months of this delirious handwork, she came to 
New York with a letter to Tom Dibble, city editor of the Journal , 
in which her Chicago city editor described her as the most indus- 
trious woman he had ever known. This was early in the summer of 
1918. Mr. Dibble was on vacation. Miss McCarthy had her sketches 
under her arm. She insisted on seeing someone in authority and she 
talked herself into a job. At first she illustrated her stories. Then 
this became too strenuous because of the rush of getting her copy 
in on time. She used three by-lines— her own name, Margery Rex 
and Julia West, which appeared over her dramatic reviews. 

One of her first assignments in New York took her to the Park 
Avenue apartment of a woman whose indiscretions had landed her 
on the front page. She talked freely and Miss McCarthy listened. 
Julia casually brought back to her office a handsome picture of the 
girl, frame and all. It had become a habit. And right away she 
learned that her early technique needed some modification. She was 
told to wrap it up at once and send it back by messenger. But as it 
was vanishing from view the desk man looked at it anxiously and 
exploded: “Wait till we copy it, for God’s sake.” 

When the Liberty Loan drives were on Miss McCarthy did 
sketches of the Foreign Legion— dashing figures with bayonets 
gleaming. She tried to crash the Bankers Club when they were en- 
tertained there but was told, “No ladies allowed here.” 

“I’m not a lady,” said Julia indignantly. 

But the bankers insisted that she was. They wouldn’t let her in. 

Her sketches of Eddie Rickenbacker were syndicated over the 
country. She covered parades and harbor greetings, talked to war 
heroes and their wives. Then the post-war celebrities began to pour 
into New York— generals, royalty, psychoanalysts, authors, actors, 
seeresses and cranks. 

She covered the Prince of Wales. She listened to Arthur Conan 
Doyle-Sherlock Holmes turned spiritualist. She sat in dark parlors 



200 Ladies of the Press 

with greasy mediums seeking for communication with the other 
world, and nearly jumped out of her skin when Dr. Walter Prince, 
the investigator of all such phenomena, had a book leap out at her 
from his library shelves— a little trick to disconcert and entertain 
the visitor. 

She interviewed Isadora Duncan in a scarlet nightgown and Ibanez 
when he was wearing a union suit. He cursed her freely in Spanish 
and closed the door in her face. James Stephens talked to her for 
hours and walked down the hotel lobby singing songs for her. 
He looked like a leprechaun— a small man with a big head and an 
eerie expression. He sent her a copy of his Crock of Gold with the 
song he had sung to her written in the flyleaf. She refused to give 
up an English first edition of The Green Hat to its author, Michael 
Arlen, who wanted it badly. Instead, she got him to autograph it 
for her. 

Then one day she went to the Biltmore Hotel to see Sir Thomas 
Lipton, who was nearly always amiable to the press. But at the 
moment he was out of sorts and he refused to see reporters— until 
he caught Julia’s name. 

“McCarthy? Come right up, my lass,” he said. 

The old sod did it. 

When Olivia Stone, a middle-aged nurse, killed Ellis Guy Kinkead 
in a Brooklyn street one summer day in 1921, Miss McCarthy was 
instantly assigned to the story. Olivia shot him down near his home, 
pumping bullets viciously into his body even after he was dead. 

Edward G. Reilly, who was later to defend Hauptmann, put on 
a cunning and histrionic defense for Olivia and got her acquitted. 
She wore a flowing black veil and took the stand with a meek and 
injured air, fainting at strategic moments. She was tried in Brooklyn 
in the spring of 1922 and was acquitted on an April day. She tried to 
resume nursing but could not make a go of it. 

Just before Christmas she telephoned to Miss McCarthy, whom 
she had come to know rather well during the trial. 

“I’m wretched,” she said. “I’ve got a bottle of poison with me and 
I’m going to drink it.” 

“Hold on a minute,” said Julia urgently. “Wait for me. I’ll be right 
up with a photographer.” 

Olivia was angry and only half succeeded. She took a little poison 
and regretted it next day. This was the golden age for murderesses. 
They all got off, except Mrs. Lillian S. Raizen, who was found guilty 
of second degree murder in the spring of 1923. Again Miss Mc- 
Carthy covered every phase of the story, writing analytical pieces on 
the bride who shot Dr. Abraham Glickstein because his memory 
clouded her new life. 



201 


Two Aces 

By this time the Stillman divorce was the leading story of the day. 
For two years it held the front pages, a scandal of unprecedented 
proportions in a divorce-addicted nation. Miss McCarthy wrote one 
piece after another on the spectacular Fifi Stillman. When the case 
was at its height and the revelations in the papers were searing, Julia 
asked her one day how she felt about it all. 

“It’s like standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue in one’s night- 
gown,” said Mrs. Stillman. 

She was present when Mr. and Mrs. Stillman met at their daugh- 
ter’s wedding and exchanged civilities— their first encounter after the 
bitter exchanges of the suit and counter-suit. No one who followed 
the case would have believed that they could have borne to be under 
the same roof again. The meeting took place at Mondanne, their 
Pleasantville estate, when their daughter Anne became the wife of 
Henry P. Davison. 

Miss McCarthy was standing beside Mrs. Stillman when Fifi’s eye 
lighted on her husband. 

“What are you going to do?” Julia asked. 

“Watch and see,” said Mrs. Stillman. 

She walked gracefully across the hall toward her husband, a 
decorative figure wearing a tan velvet dress and a hat with an 
aigrette. She smiled up at him. “Won’t you have a glass of cham- 
pagne?” she asked. 

The bitterness seemed washed away. He responded. Later that 
day he patted the blond head of little Guy, whose legitimacy he 
had impugned. The story made the front pages of papers all over 
the country. It was a case with an extraordinary number of twists— 
the Indian guide and Flo Leeds allegations, the secret hearings, the 
failure of both sides to prove their cases, the sudden and startling 
reconciliation, the second split and Mrs. Stillman’s subsequent mar- 
riage to young Fowler McCormick. 

When Miss McCarthy was assigned one Christmas to interview 
Daddy Browning, he was in the gift-giving frame of mind. It was 
his custom to ply reporters with expensive presents— a most unusual 
and unwelcome habit for the working press. On this occasion he 
thrust into Julia’s arms a huge teddy bear of turquoise plush with 
a purple bow around its neck and a victrola in its inside. She didn’t 
want it. She told him so. But he insisted on her taking it, so she 
said she would give it to some deserving child. 

Julia did not know what to do with her teddy bear when she 
reached the street. Passersby stared. She ducked hastily into a taxi. 
All the way down to her office policemen peered into the cab at 
traffic stops to see what monster she had beside her on the seat. 

“It’s from Daddy Browning,” she explained patiently. 



202 Ladies of the Press 

Everyone seemed to understand. 

In 1928 Miss McCarthy moved from the Journal to the World . 
where she did features for a year and a half. She turned out profiles 
of A 1 Smith, John J. Raskob, and other political figures. She investi- 
gated conditions at Auburn Prison and found abuses of various kinds. 
She did a clever piece of writing for the Sunday World on Frankie 
Yale’s funeral. She talked to some of his companions and wrote her 
story in the argot of the underworld. Herbert Bayard Swope, of the 
red-gold curls and Roman Emperor profile, who always appreciated 
a story of zestful quality, sent her a characteristic note on this occa- 
sion. “Superb. Swope.” 



[ 203 } 


Chapter XVII 

CATCHING THE WIRE 


O n March 7, 1932, before the name Bruno R. Hauptmann 
was known to any but the small circle of his friends, the 
Associated Press received a tip that Colonel Lindbergh’s 
missing baby had been returned alive. The child’s body was then 
lying in the woods but only the murderer knew it. 

Lorena Hickok, A.P. star and a newspaper woman of the first 
rank, started up Sourland Mountain toward the Lindbergh home 
with Edward O’Haire, a camera man whose usual beat was the 
White House. She knew that nothing would satisfy her office but 
a personal report from the spot. The Lindbergh home was incom- 
municado at the time. All news was being handed out through 
Colonel Norman H. Schwartzkopf. The chances of getting an au- 
thenic report from the house were practically nil. Police barred the 
main entrance, but Miss Hickok had learned of a path through the 
woods at the other side of the house. 

There had been a blizzard. It was a stormy night. The country 
was coated with ice. The wind whistled through the stripped trees. 
Miss Hickok wore her taxi driver’s overshoes and kept tripping at 
every step. She and Eddie expected momentarily to be caught and 
thrown off the premises. It took them forty-five minutes to get to 
the edge of the clearing. Lorena’s legs were slashed by the under- 
brush. O’Haire set up his camera and took a six-minute time ex- 
posure of the house. Then he slipped back into the woods, so that 
he could make a quick getaway if they were detected. 

Miss Hickok went down on her hands and knees in the snow 
and crawled as close to the house as she dared. She saw that the 
family was still keeping vigil. There were no signs that the child 
was back. The ill-fated nursery was in darkness. The baby had 
then been missing for five days. 

She crawled back and rejoined her companion. They got lost in 
the woods and wandered about for hours. They both took flu and 
it was weeks before Miss Hickok recovered her voice. However, 



204 Ladies of the Tress 

as the story was a dud, she got little credit for her enterprise. Only 
results matter in the exacting newspaper world. 

But this had little effect on a front-page girl like Lorena, who 
was used to coping with all sorts of emergencies, to exposing herself 
to hazards and rebuffs in the pursuit of news, to working at top 
speed under pressure. For the tempo of the newspaper reporter is 
magnified three times over in press service work. There is no let-up. 
Every minute is a deadline if the news is hot. The reporter working 
for one paper can relax when her last edition has gone, but the wire 
service girls go on and on. They file leads and new leads, lead alls, 
precede leads and bulletins until their heads jingle. They have com- 
plicated mechanical symbolism to master in addition to getting and 
writing their stories. They must be quick, clear-headed, ingenious 
and accurate. Their mistakes, when they make any, are repeated in 
scores of papers, thereby spreading the damage. 

Miss Hickok achieved standing with the A.P. that no other 
woman has matched. And she did it on sheer capability. She cov- 
ered straight politics, which is considered the most difficult and un- 
suitable work for newspaper women. She reported the Walker- 
Seabury hearings before the Governor. She traveled on campaign 
trains, often the only woman reporter with dozens of men. None of 
her competitors ever needed to give her a helping hand. She was 
much more likely to be first with the facts. She was hard-boiled 
and soft-hearted at the same time— a big girl in a casual raincoat 
with a wide tailored hat, translucent blue eyes and a mouth vivid 
with lipstick. 

The path to stardom was one of adventure and grim work for 
Lorena. She was born in East Troy, Wisconsin, over a creamery. 
Her father was an itinerant butter maker who roved about, so that 
before she was thirteen she had moved fifteen times through Wis- 
consin, Illinois and South Dakota. Then her mother died and her 
father remarried. She went to work to take care of herself. One of 
her first jobs was as a slavey in a boarding house in Aberdeen, South 
Dakota, which was frequented by railroad men. The Milwaukee Rail- 
road was then being built through to the Missouri River. 

Until she was sixteen Lorena knocked about, working as a do- 
mestic, but she had no gift in this direction and was constantly get- 
ting fired. While she was in the employ of a saloonkeeper’s wife 
in Bowdle, South Dakota, she decided she would try teaching in a 
country school. She passed the necessary examinations, but when 
her age was discovered, she was turned down. Too young, by a 
couple of years. Her employer, somewhat concerned about her, 
wrote to one of Lorena’s cousins in Chicago. The result was that she 
was dragged from domestic service, dressed up in fine clothes and 



Catching the Wire 205 

sent posthaste to Battle Creek, Michigan, to live with relatives and 
attend high school. 

She did well until she was sent to a small denominational college 
in Wisconsin, but she was not happy there. Dr. M. L. Spencer, who 
later became president of the University of Washington, called her 
in. He had been a newspaper man. On his advice she returned to 
Battle Creek and got on the staff of the Battle Creek Evening News , 
then owned by C. W. Post, of cereal fame. This was in 1913. Her 
salary was $7 a week and she collected personals. She made the 
rounds of the shops and office buildings and soon learned that quan- 
tity rather than quality counted in the personals for a small paper. 

An extra dollar a week lured her over to a rival paper, the Battle 
Creek Journal . Her publisher was an eccentric creature known as 
“Wild Bill” Thomson. In the winter of that year she first learned 
that some of the metropolitan papers had characters known as copy 
readers. So she sold “Wild Bill” the idea and became the Journals 
first copy reader, at $10 a week. Every afternoon the rest of the 
staff went to the composing room, got hold of the proofreader’s 
hooks, saw what she had done with their copy and promptly 
raised hell. 

Then came the World War. Inspired by Karl Von Wiegand’s 
stories, which ran in her paper, Miss Hickok decided that she wanted 
to be a war correspondent. She thought that perhaps if she tried 
college again she might achieve her aim. So she went to Lawrence 
College, in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Edna Ferber had worked, 
as a reporter, meanwhile getting a job as correspondent for the 
Milwaukee Sentinel . 

She soon abandoned the academic life and worked regularly for 
the Sentinel at $15 a week. She read Miss Ferber’s newspaper story 
of Milwaukee, Dawn O'Hara , got the habit of drinking chocolate 
in a fine old German coffee house and steadily put on weight. By 
this time she had learned a good deal about newspaper work. She 
was society and woman’s editor. Her paper carried the work of 
Sophie Irene Loeb, Nixola Greeley-Smith and Marguerite Mooers 
Marshall. Lorena read them and thought how dazzling it would be to 
work in New York. Dreams sometimes come true. 

After her own work was finished she hung about the shop in the 
evening, hoping to get news stories to cover. One night she was told 
that Geraldine Farrar was coming to town and that she might inter- 
view her. For days she brooded happily over this great opportunity. 

Miss Farrar arrived late one November afternoon. It was cold and 
rainy. Lorena was wearing a hat with a feather, which disintegrated 
shockingly in the rain and smelled of glue. She found the singer’s 
private car in the railroad yards close to Lake Michigan. Miss 



20 6 Ladies of the Tress 

Farrar refused to see her and her Boston bull terrier chewed most of 
the fur off Lorena’s best suit. Finally she went back to the office, 
cold, wet and angry, and wrote what she thought was a stinger on 
haughty prima donnas. Next day it appeared under her first by-line. 
It was a witty story and brought her commendation. It got her out 
of the woman’s department. 

Miss Farrar’s manager came round with an autographed photo- 
graph of the star. He said she would be glad to see Miss Hickok if 
she would go back stage between numbers at her concert. But 
Lorena retorted that she was too busy to interview Miss Farrar. 
Years later she met her in New York when the singer first went 
on the air, but she did not mention the incident. It was not Miss 
Farrar’s practice to be rude to the press. She was usually one of the 
more amiable subjects for interviews. 

By-lines now became a matter of course in Miss Hickok’s life. 
She did general assignments and features. In the late summer of 
1916 she got itching feet and decided to try Chicago. Every week, 
on her day off, she badgered Chicago editors and finally concen- 
trated on Teddy Beck, of the Chicago Tribune , but without success. 
She gave up at last, press-agented a Belgian actress, and landed in 
Minneapolis on her birthday, March 7, 1917, completely broke. In 
less than a week she had a job on the Tribune at $20 a week. Most 
of the men had gone to war. She became an experienced and trusted 
member of the staff, but she had heard of the Battalion of Death and 
she wanted badly to go to war. 

On January 1, 1918, she started off for New York. Her real 
objective was Russia. She was caught in Chicago in the worst bliz- 
zard in years. She was too short of funds to go to a hotel. So she 
spent three days and three nights in the old Michigan Central sta- 
tion, on the Lake Front. She reached New York in a daze and sought 
the inhospitable benches of Park Row. However, Garet Garrett, 
then managing editor of the Tribune , gave her a chance. He was one 
of the few New York newspaper executives who have really 
believed in having women on the staff, and he offered them gen- 
erous opportunities. But Miss Hickok was bewildered, shy and 
worn-out by her hard experiences. New York appalled her. In six 
weeks she was let out and she felt as if the sky had fallen. 

Russia seemed far away. She tried to be a yeomanette. She went 
after all sorts of jobs, from trolley car conductor to acting as secre- 
tary to Chapin, of the World. Finally she got work with the Com- 
mission on Training Camp Activities. When she was assigned to do 
a moral survey of all the parks of Greater New York, she decided 
to return to the Minneapolis Tribune. She started in on the night 
side at $25 a week and just missed being appointed night city editor, 



Catching the Wire 207 

because the publisher did not think that the post should go to a 
woman. That year large tracts of northern Minnesota were burned 
up in forest fires. She did brilliant rewrite on this succession of 
stories. Her keenest disappointment came the night that the fire 
swept down to Duluth. A staff man was sent out to cover the story. 
Her editors would not send Lorena, good as she was, because she was 
a woman. There was black murder in her heart. 

Later she learned that the reporter who got the assignment had 
to climb a pole and tap a telephone wire to get his story out. Could 
she have done it? At least at the time she thought she could. She 
rewrote the story, but she wanted the greater excitement of being 
on the spot. She has never cared for desk work. 

In the autumn of 1918 she went to the University of Minnesota, 
starting all over again as a freshman. Her rhetoric instructor called 
her up after class one day and said, “You write well. I thought you 
might be interested in knowing that the Tribune wants to get some 
campus reporters on space.” 

This made Miss Hickok laugh. At the time she was writing half of 
the front page of the Tribune every day. She had an 8 a.m. class 
five mornings a week, finished at the university at i p.m., slept all 
afternoon, went to the office at 7 p.m. and, if it was a quiet night, 
managed to do some studying between midnight and 3 a.m. 

In the early summer, when the university closed, she was ap- 
pointed Sunday editor of her paper. And that ended her uncontrol- 
lable habit of going after higher education. She did not really care 
for her new desk job but she learned how to make up a paper. After 
a year of it, Thomas J. Dillon, managing editor of the Tribune , 
took her out of the Sunday department, gave her a by-line and made 
her his number one reporter. For the next six years Miss Hickok 
did consistently good work and got a heavy play. Her story on the 
passage of the Harding funeral train through Honey Creek was 
included in a collection of the best news stories of 1923. 

She found Tom Dillon a sympathetic editor and a good newspaper 
man in every way. She was treated exactly like a man, which is what 
every newspaper woman hankers for when she joins a city staff. She 
covered straight politics and wrote football for four years, touring 
the Big Ten conference with the Minnesota team. These were the 
days of Red Grange, Knute Rockne and Benny Friedman. Miss 
Hickok picked up a fine line of slang and a sound knowledge of 
how to work with large groups of men reporters. The legend was 
that she smoked a pipe in the city room. One summer Mr. Dillon 
gave her a chance to write editorials for the paper. It was during this 
period that she developed into the fine reporter she now is. 

In the late autumn of 1926 she was ill and went to California for 



208 Ladies of the Press 

her health. A year later she returned to New York and landed on 
the Mirror. She was the last reporter hired by Phil Payne before he 
started off on his fatal flight in Old Glory. She stayed on the paper 
for a year, then went to the Associated Press, where she was the first 
woman to be trusted with straight news leads on big stories. She 
could tackle anything and she wrote with color, finish, a keen news 
sense and good judgment. 

She grew familiar with the Tammany spectacle before the frost 
set in. She watched girls in white strewing roses, provided by a 
Greek florist, in Jimmy Walker’s path when he returned from the 
Seabury hearing in Albany to the strains of a band playing “Happy 
Days Are Here Again.” She was a spectator at John R. Voorhees’ 
funeral. The 102-year-old Grand Sachem was almost forgotten that 
day in the fuss over A 1 Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt, because 
Mr. Smith had announced the day before that he would accept the 
nomination in Chicago if it were offered to him. 

Miss Hickok did outstanding work on the Vestris disaster. Her 
by-line appeared on page one of the New York Times , which rarely 
happens to the local press service reporter, man or woman. When 
Starr Faithfull, lovely and wild, was found drowned on the sands 
of Long Beach, she was one of the first reporters on the job. She 
covered every twist of the investigation, sprayed the secrets of 
Starr’s fantastic and tortured life to the press all over the country, 
and finally let it rest, another unsolved mystery. 

In Martin A. White, then of the A.P., now head of Universal Serv- 
ice, she found a rare and understanding editor. He never hesitated 
to give her the best story that came along. Like Tom Dillon, he was 
her preceptor and friend. He first impressed her because he was the 
one newspaper executive in New York who offered her a chair 
when she went in to ask for a job. 

After the Roosevelts entered the White House Miss Hickok was 
put in an embarrassing position at her office because of her friend- 
ship with the President’s wife. She was disinclined to use this link 
to get news. She had first met Mrs. Roosevelt in 1928, while she was 
covering Democratic National Headquarters. This was another occa- 
sion when she was doing a man’s work, to the horror of John J. 
Raskob, who looked alarmed the first time he saw a woman stamp- 
ing into one of his press conferences. 

She had also had contact with Mrs. Roosevelt off and on while 
her husband was Governor. Miss Hickok thought her excellent copy 
and suggested that she should be closely watched during the Presi- 
dential campaign. The result was that she was the one reporter 
assigned to cover her regularly. She and Mrs. Roosevelt were thrown 
together on train trips and became good friends. 



Catching the Wire 209 

The assumption was that Miss Hickok could have ready access to 
the President’s wife on news. As time went on this became a prob- 
lem. She resigned late in June but stayed on longer than she in- 
tended, in order to finish reporting the trial of Charles E. Mitchell, 
a story so complicated that it needed a special background in 
Mitchell finances. 

Since the summer of 1933 Miss Hickok has been confidential ob- 
server for Harry L. Hopkins, Federal Relief Administrator, traveling 
over the country and making exhaustive reports. Occasionally she 
travels with Mrs. Roosevelt. She accompanied her on her air trip 
to Puerto Rico, in her capacity of relief investigator. 

Miss Hickok was followed on the A.P. by Mary Elizabeth Plum- 
mer, who walked in one summer day and got an excellent job after 
three years on the Courier- Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. When 
Lincoln Steffens, on a lecture tour, read a piece she did about Black- 
stone, the magician, he wrote from Nashville: “If I were still with 
a New York magazine I would wire the editor that I had found 
one. 

However, Miss Plummer found her own way to New York and 
since then her name has appeared with increasing frequency through- 
out the country on A.P. stories. She worked on Hauptmann’s trial 
and managed to crash the guard that the Journal had set up around 
Mrs. Hauptmann. The wretched woman let her in one cold night 
toward the end of the trial, talked to her for an hour in German, 
showed her a bureau drawer full of letters that she had received, 
and told her something of the misery she was enduring in the court 
room at Flemington. 

Miss Plummer was the first person to identify the Rev. Vincent 
G. Bums, the pastor who disturbed the trial by shouting from a 
windowsill. She also recognized Ford Madox Ford in the crowd 
swarming around the doors and got him to write a signed article for 
her press service. She covered John Jacob Astor’s somewhat sensa- 
tional wedding at Newport and was with James J. Braddock’s fam- 
ily in New Jersey while they listened to the broadcast the night he 
won the world title. 

Miss Plummer comes from Bedford, Indiana, a stone mill town 
with a population of 15,000. After leaving college she became In- 
diana’s first girl sports columnist, writing for the local paper. At 
the same time she taught English in a junior high school and often 
got up at 5 a.m. to do her column, while the milk wagons rattled 
along and the early shift passed on their way to the mills. 

After three years of this, she tried Chicago, but failed to land a 
newspaper job, so she worked in a settlement house until an offer 
reached her from the Courier- Journal that sent her speeding south. 



2xo Ladies of the Press 

There she had a whirl at everything— straight reporting, feature 
writing, editing special sections, doing book reviews, society and 
rewrite. She worked until nearly midnight every night while the 
dance bands played. 

Since moving to New York Miss Plummer has married Davidson 
Taylor, of the Columbia Broadcasting System, whom she met in 
Louisville, Kentucky, when he was radio editor of the Courier - 
Journal 

Another of the younger press service girls who has soared to the 
top is Dorothy Ducas, star woman graduate of the Columbia School 
of Journalism. She has worked for the Herald Tribune , the Post y 
McCall's and I.N.S. 

Miss Ducas was in a theater with her husband, James Herzog, on 
the afternoon that the Lindbergh baby was found dead in the woods. 
Between the acts she saw an afternoon paper with the ultimate in 
banner lines. She dashed out of the theater and called her office. 

“Where on earth have you been?” she was asked. “We’ve been 
looking for you everywhere. Hop the train at once for Hopewell.” 

Going down in the train Miss Ducas began to think about Mrs. 
Lindbergh. She had a little boy herself, almost the same age. He had 
been ill and had caused her much anxiety. Without waiting to get to 
Hopewell, she took out her pencil and copy paper and began to 
write. “The story is ended so far as Anne Lindbergh is concerned,” 
she began. Every line of the story was personalized. It was one of 
the few sob stories Miss Ducas has written, since she prides herself 
on being a straight news reporter, but the occasion seemed to war- 
rant it. Coming from the heart, it had a moving quality and was a 
good piece of work. She had covered the news lead on the Lind- 
bergh wedding three years earlier— a three-column head leading the 
Evening Post. She had worked on the kidnapping during the anxious 
days of the quest. 

When Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, professor of Romance languages at 
the University of Tennessee, was charged with drowning his wife in 
Chesapeake Bay in 1931, Miss Ducas was sent to cover the trial. She 
made efforts to see Dr. Kane, but his lawyer assured her that the 
professor would have nothing to say for publication. His defense was 
that his wife, subject to heart attacks, had died of heart failure while 
swimming. Miss Ducas walked across the street to a restaurant for a 
meal. Almost at once she spotted Dr. Kane at a table. He was an un- 
mistakable figure, extremely tall, with a beak-like nose, receding 
gray hair and burning eyes. Although charged with murder, he was 
free on his own recognizance. Miss Ducas sauntered over to where 
he sat. 

“Please don’t think me forward,” she said, “but I have come from 



Catching the Wire 21 1 

New York ahead of the other reporters in order to get an interview 
with you.” 

“Sit down and have some lunch,” said the professor amiably. 

He talked freely and she was able to file an interview. The pro- 
fessor was acquitted, but during the days of the trial he paced his 
hotel room like a madman all night long. Miss Ducas had the next 
room. It got on her nerves to such a degree that she moved to an- 
other room. On this case she wrote the straight news lead and the 
features, too, which is a stiff grind for a news service. It involves 
filing thousands of words of running copy all day long, then doing a 
picturesque piece on the side. Miss Ducas has done this repeatedly 
for I.N.S. It is the real test of the news service girl. But the feature, 
not the news lead, carries the by-line, although the other is often 
the more exacting job. 

When young Edward H. B. Allen shot Francis A. Donaldson in 
Overbrook, Pennsylvania, in 1931 to avenge his sister, Miss Ducas 
again was rushed out to cover a story that had unusual elements. 
Local feeling was high. The families were well known. It was the 
sort of tragedy that might have occurred in any middle-class home. 

She had a four-minute beat on the verdict, which was acquittal for 
young Allen. The scramble over a murder verdict is always intense. 
A half-minute is a substantial beat on a news service. Four minutes is 
a sensation. Miss Ducas arranged with someone to stand at the exit, 
catch her signal and get out before the court-room door was shut. 
Her collaborator rushed to the wire room, handed the flash to 
Visconti, veteran Western Union man who has handled all the big 
news round-ups of recent years, and scored a clean beat. This makes 
little difference to the public, but it is closely watched by the craft. 
The most elaborate arrangements were made to catch the Haupt- 
mann verdict— blind raising, signals across the room, and other 
abracadabra, but the result was a disastrous mix-up that led the A.P. 
to flash the wrong verdict over the country. 

When the unexpected bulletin that Calvin Coolidge was dead hit 
the I.N.S. offices, thirteen large teletypes all stopped simultaneously. 
Verdicts are expected; but this was a bolt from the blue and a story 
of prime importance in any newspaper office. 

Miss Ducas was sent to Northampton to write about the funeral. 
She mopped up color and anecdotes from friends of the family. She 
went with the cortege to Plymouth and saw the ex-President laid 
to rest in the driving rain. Spectators lined the roadside. The coun- 
try was grim and gray, coated with ice. It was much like the dreary 
day on which Woodrow Wilson was buried. 

Miss Ducas got her newspaper experience early and fast. She 
moved quickly from one point to another. She won the Pulitzer 



2i2 Ladies of the Press 

traveling scholarship when she was twenty years of age. Her family 
wanted her to go in for advertising but she was determined that 
nothing should stop her from being a newspaper star. She fastened 
her attention on the Herald Tribune . She wanted to be the Columbia 
correspondent, knowing that this was an entering wedge. 

Dwight S. Perrin, now with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , was city 
editor at the time. Mr. Perrin was a fair-minded and able city editor 
but he thought that any city staff could get along without a woman, 
an undeniable fact. Miss Ducas knew she would have to get in on 
wings to sell herself to the city desk of the Herald Tribune . She 
bombarded Mr. Perrin with requests for a job. 

“But supposing there was a fire in one of the dormitory buildings— 
what good would you be?” Mr. Perrin asked her on one occasion. 

“Well, supposing there was a fire in Barnard, what good would a 
man be?” Miss Ducas countered. 

“Why don’t you work on your home town paper?” Mr. Perrin 
demanded. 

“This is my home town,” said Miss Ducas stoutly. 

“Well, go out and adopt one.” 

So she went to Hackensack and worked for a summer on the 
Bergen Evening Record . She was then taken on as Columbia cor- 
respondent for the Herald Tribune. She was married secretly five 
days before she went abroad on her traveling scholarship. She 
worked on the Express in London and sent back features by mail 
to the Herald Tribune . When she came back in March, 1927, she got 
the coveted staff job. 

When she went out on her first three-alarm fire and tried to get 
through the fire lines, a policeman pushed her back. 

“But I’ve got to get through,” said Miss Ducas. “I’m a reporter.” 

“Oh, go on,” he said, “they don’t send women to cover fires.” 

“Oh, yes, they do and she belongs in here,” said Whitney Bolton, 
a colleague whose wife, Frances Schiff, is another graduate of the 
School of Journalism who did capable work on the Herald Tribune 
before her marriage. 

Miss Ducas soon distinguished herself on the Post , to which she 
moved in October, 1927. She was almost the first reporter to rush 
the field and get under the Graf Zeppelin when it ended its historic 
round-the-world flight at Lakehurst. She was shouting up at Lady 
Drummond Hay before the huge dirigible had settled into place. This 
was another of the confused mob scenes where the press went 
slightly haywire. 

She covered Ishbel Macdonald when she came to the United 
States with her father on his Official visit. She went to Canada with 
her, watched her getting her first impression of Niagara Falls, and 
persuaded Miss Macdonald to write three signed pieces for the Post. 



Catching the Wire 213 

During the three years that Miss Ducas spent on the paper, Vin- 
cent G. Byers, her city editor, thought up a number of original 
stunts for her. One day she was hoisted to the top of a pole in 
Madison Square Garden to talk to Flag Pole Kelly. She wore trous- 
ers, scaled the rafters and was suspended in the air while she got 
his views on mundane matters. Again she was sent out with Richard 
Montague, who carried his coat on his arm, to see how many of the 
smart restaurants in town they could crash, in spite of the informal 
touch. This was one of the summer sillies that editors think up for 
the dog days. They were turned down flat at two out of six places 
but went nonchalantly on their way. 

She got to know Dr. John Roach Straton by falling head first 
into the lake at his doorstep when she was assigned to cover him at 
Greenwood Lake, New York, while he was having his widely pub- 
licized dispute with A 1 Smith. She was fished out of the lake and 
was taken in to the Straton fireside to dry. Mrs. Straton kept her 
for dinner and from that time on Miss Ducas got a number of ex- 
clusive stories from the fire-and-damnation Baptist divine. It was she 
who first launched the story of his challenge to A 1 to stage a debate 
with him, if they could get St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the purpose. 
She followed up his faith healing meetings and covered Uldine 
Utley, the child evangelist who flapped her angel wings for a time in 
Calvary Church. Dr. Straton sometimes shook his head over Miss 
Ducas’s worldly approach to the doings at his church. She found 
him a fanatic of terrible sincerity. 

A profile of Ishbel Macdonald, which she did for McCall's , led 
Otto Wiese to offer her a post as associate editor. She deserted news- 
paper work for a short time but returned to it in 1931, joining the 
staff of I.N.S. Exciting assignments came thick and fast. She moved 
from one trial to another and began to take in wide territory, as the 
press service girl does. She and Margaret Lane went to Chicago for 
the political conventions of 1932. Miss Lane was an English girl who 
tried her hand at American journalism for I.N.S. and made a success 
of it. She did interviews and special features, which were heavily 
played by her service. During the Kentucky strikes of 1931 she went 
South and registered at a hotel as Mrs. Campbell. Reporters were 
being run out of town at gun-point, but Miss Lane, .carrying a tiny 
pocket camera, was able to move about freely, take pictures and 
write readable copy. She is back in England now, is married, and 
writes for the Daily Mail . Her first novel, Faith , Hope , No Charity, 
was a great success in England. 

The Hearst wire services have been fortunate in the capable news- 
paper girls they have picked. Corinne Rich and Winifred Van Duzer 
did excellent work for them in the twenties. Miss Rich, who was 



[216]; 


Chapter XV1U 

THE EARTH ROCKS 


E velyn Seeley was driving into Los Angeles on a March 
night in 1933 when her car began to wabble as she came to a 
halt at a traffic stop on Sunset Boulevard. She was returning 
from Pasadena where she had been interviewing Dr. Albert Einstein. 

Models in spring costumes did grotesque gyrations and tumbled 
to the floor in shop windows. Oranges rolled madly from fruit 
stands. She drove on to the office of the Illustrated Daily News 
where she was going to write her Einstein story for the New York 
World-Telegram . But first she sent a wire to New York: “There 
seems to be an earthquake. Do you want a story?” 

As she sat at her typewriter there was another temblor, this time 
a light one. The building swayed. The floor rocked beneath her feet. 
She felt slightly dizzy. There was a menacing rumble. The lights 
blinked and dimmed. The rewrite men sat tight at their desks, ready 
for anything. 

“Five hundred to one thousand dead in Long Beach,” came the 
first report over the wire. 

Miss Seeley decided to set out for Long Beach. 

The earthquake had made dizzy inroads on the countryside. A 
grocery store was flattened out beside a roadside mission that stood 
intact. Small fires burned through the fog. Miss Seeley got past 
the lines and saw what looked like a caricature of Long Beach. 
Houses gaped, the front facades ripped off. Bricks and debris lay 
scattered in the streets. Distracted residents ran about, looking for 
friends and relatives. 

She went to American Legion Hall, where the dead were taken. 
She counted the still figures under gunny sack. The total death list 
was less than the first report-5,000 injured, 116 dead-but at the 
moment it seemed like thousands more. Rheba Crawford Splivaloo, 
the Angel of Broadway, was directing relief. Ambulances clanged 
back and forth. Shivering residents lined up for coffee, still shocked 
by the upheaval. Miss Seeley stayed at the scene all night, gathering 
graphic copy for I.N.S. and the World-Telegram . In the morning 



The Earth Rocks 217 

she rode home through the dense fog, emerging from a grim dis- 
jointed world to the sunshine and bustle of Los Angeles. 

Again she was on the spot for the general strike in San Francisco 
in July, 1934. Her husband, Kenneth Stewart, was an instructor at 
Leland Stanford University at the time. At the first hint of excite- 
ment Miss Seeley was out in the thick of things. She saw the pedes- 
trians trudging in two lines along Market Street, bound for work; 
she watched roller skates and bicycles blossoming all over town. 
Her vivid first-hand stories were flashed to the World-Telegram . 

Miss Seeley is a reporter with the knack of being on the spot when 
news breaks dramatically. By chance she was in Santiago when the 
Chilean government was overthrown in 1930. She saw the crowd 
gather, watched the mounted soldiers charge with their lances. One 
of them missed her by a hair’s breadth. Isaac Marcosson and his 
wife were in a doorway nearby at the time. 

Miss Seeley is equally at home in newspaper work in San Fran- 
cisco, where she started, or in New York, where she now makes her 
home. She was born in Illinois, went to school in Montana, attended 
the Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, and 
landed in San Francisco one Good Friday bent on getting a news- 
paper job. She went to see the editor of the San Francisco News. 
She had done some secretarial work in college but otherwise had no 
training for journalism. 

“Have you a clean mirror in the back of your mind so that you 
can reflect news honestly?” he asked her. 

“Yes.” 

“How old are you?” 

“Twenty-one.” 

He told her that it was important for a reporter to be without 
prejudices and that it was good to have the emotional imagination 
to feel, and yet to write with detachment. The News seemed like a 
madhouse to the shy girl who got occasional assignments from the 
city desk. Milly Bennett Mitchell, who had started reporting at an 
absurdly early age and who thought nothing of kicking up her heels 
and roaring at the city editor, gave her some advice. “What you 
have to do is hang around,” she told the bewildered novice. 

The hanging around was painful. Evelyn did neighborhood fea- 
tures and at last was taken regularly on the staff, chiefly because she 
knew stenography, and Fred V. Williams, the star feature writer, 
liked to dictate his stories over the telephone. 

Her city editor was the old-fashioned sort who snorted and 
roared at the staff. 

“What do you mean by this, Seeley?” he would yell. “Do you 
call this a story?” 



2 18 Ladies of the Press 

He badgered her until she wept. Then he sat down and wrote 
the story himself. After this it took her years to get over her dread 
of city editors. 

As she moved around and saw the variability of the social system, 
Miss Seeley developed a strong social conscience. She went to live 
in the Cuneo flats which the family of Amadeo Peter Giannini’s 
wife had built for the fishermen. Hordes of Sicilians occupied them. 
They were shocking fire traps. Miss Seeley posed as a factory girl, 
borrowed a mackinaw from her father, found a room for $7 a month 
and had some furniture moved in. An office boy went along with 
her for protection. He posed as her husband. 

She did a graphic expos6 of conditions at the flats. The club 
women were stirred up and a few bathtubs and other comforts 
were installed under pressure. But coal was soon to be found in 
the tubs. It was the usual flash in the pan of municipal activity that 
follows a newspaper crusade, before things settle back into their 
habitual state of indifference. 

Miss Seeley soon set out to see the country. She worked in Santa 
Fe for the New Mexico State Tribune and was at Albuquerque 
when the evidence against Albert B. Fall was being dug up. She went 
on to the El Paso Times, where she learned about mining and heard 
rumors of revolution. She returned to California and sailed for New 
York. But she left the ship at Havana and worked on the Telegram 
there. She learned to paste up cables, write heads and edit copy. 

Miss Seeley arrived in New York in 1925, went the rounds of the 
newspaper offices, heard the usual story of full staffs, with no place 
for a woman. She went to work in Alfred A. Knopfs office, then 
moved north to Montreal and landed a job on the Herald. She was 
on the spot when Mrs. James A. Stillman started a commotion at her 
son’s wedding in the summer of 1927 by throwing china at the 
photographers. Miss Seeley and Morris Tracy, of the United Press, 
landed in La Tuque while all their competitors were miles away at 
Grand Anse, lulled by a message from the Stillman home that there 
was no use going to the scene until the wedding day, as news would 
not be forthcoming. But Miss Seeley and Mr. Tracy talked to the 
mother of Lena Viola Wilson, Bud Stillman’s bride-to-be, and then 
drove to the Stillman home. The result was thousands of words of 
advance copy on the wedding. They telephoned to their rivals and 
gave them what' they could, but it was practically a clean sweep. 

Jtfext day, when the marriage service was over and the bride had 
sunk a silver knife into a four-foot wedding cake, Mrs. Stillman 
boxed the ears of a motion picture cameraman when she saw him 
grinding out a picture on the lawn. 

“Out you go, get out of here,” she exclaimed. 



The Earth Rocks ' 219 

Seven other cameramen went on with their work. Mrs. Stillman 
pushed one over, then picked up a plate and hurled it at the re- 
maining offenders. It landed on a pile of small punch glasses with 
crashing effect. The photographers ducked, but Mrs. Stillman pur- 
sued them, slinging plates with the skill of a discus thrower. One 
broke a window. Another landed on the head of a Fox News man. 

It was not according to Emily Post but it made good front-page 
reading next day. The pipe band, the smart guests from New York, 
the habitants in their Sunday best, even the bride and groom became 
secondary in interest to Mrs. Stillman’s plate-throwing orgy. Miss 
Seeley did full justice to the story. 

By 1929 she was working for the Telegram. Her first task was to 
interview Frances Perkins. Soon her underscored and revealing in- 
terviews became a regular feature of the paper. She avoided the 
trite, tossed overboard all the stock bromides of the newspaper inter- 
viewer, and got her effects by economy of expression and the re- 
strained use of detail. In the mob interviews of the day, she made 
it a point to peg away at her subjects until they had worn out their 
publicity chatter and were ready to give her something spontaneous 
and revealing. The result was quite effective. 

One of the most difficult subjects the New York newspaper girls 
ever had to handle was Marion Talley, from the time the child 
wonder first brought the mounted police galloping to subdue the 
crowds that swarmed around the Metropolitan on her opening night 
until she decided to retire to the farm. 

When she announced her withdrawal from opera she received 
the press to the extent of letting them into her drawing-room but 
there the rapport ended. All she would say was yes, no, or perhaps. 
She refused to let herself go. By degrees the newspaper girls grew 
annoyed. They began to batter her with senseless questions. 

“Do you like cows, Miss Talley?” said the bronze-haired Miss 
Seeley gently. 

Miss Talley looked blank. 

“Do you like chickens?” said another. 

Miss Talley looked frosty. 

“Do you like horses?” 

Miss Talley turned her head away. 

“Do you like PIGS?” shouted an annoy 
the flapper age. 

Miss Talley’s nostrils flickered. She v 
sprang a surprise. “No,” she responded at 

Everyone sighed with relief. At last an e 
canary kept trilling. 

“Well, he won’t stop singing,” said Miss ! 



220 Ladies of the Press 

“But I’m not like that,” said Miss Talley complacently. 

Miss Seeley wrote about Lindbergh’s welcome home, Ella Wen- 
del’s death, the annual Easter parade— scores of the town’s events. 
She interviewed actors, authors, scientists, cranks, cultists and visit- 
ing royalties. She found Dr. Einstein wandering about in his gar- 
den, not sure whether it was yesterday or to-day. She met Amelia 
Earhart down the Bay, and drove through Long Island in an open 
car, sirens screeching, while she took a bow in the wake of Charles 
Kingsford-Smith. She was with Christie R. Bohnsack, the rubicund 
stage master of the best parades and the friend of the press. The 
renowned city welcomes of the twenties were all in Mr. Bohn- 
sack’s capable hands. 

On the Sunday before the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped, a 
group of newspaper people were gathered at the Seeley-Stewart 
home, when someone launched the favorite newspaper question: 
“What would be the biggest news story that could break?” 

“If a dirigible should hit the Empire State Building and explode,” 
said one. 

“If someone should kidnap the Lindbergh baby,” said another. 

Everyone scoffed. Impossible. That never could happen. 

But news is frequently more terrible than the mature mind, dis- 
ciplined to restraint, can credit. 

Three nights later George F. Lyon, then city editor of the 
World-Telegram and now managing editor of the Buffalo Times , 
called Miss Seeley at 1.30 a.m. 

“Have you any money?” he asked. 

“No,” she said. “But I can get some.” 

“Well, hurry up and come down here as soon as you can. The 
Lindbergh baby has been kidnapped.” 

Miss Seeley hung up the receiver, incredulous. She called her 
husband who was then working on the copy desk of the Herald 
Tribune . 

“George must be dreaming,” she said. 

“He isn’t,” said Mr. Stewart. “It’s true.” 

Miss Seeley hurried to Hopewell, where she found the press 
assembling from all points. Reporters are usually impersonal about 
their work, but this was a story that penetrated the thickest skin, as 
clues were followed, hopes were raised, then dashed, over a period 
of four months, until the quest ended abruptly when the baby’s 
dead body was found in the woods. 

Miss Seeley now free-lances. Her husband is on the editorial staff 
of the Literary Digest . Both are active workers in the Newspaper 
Guild— a well-known and popular newspaper couple. 

Another Californian starred in the World-Telegram is Geraldine 



221 


The Earth Rocks 

Sartain, a capable member of the profession who has turned out 
copy in all parts of the world. She attended the University of Cali- 
fornia, took a six weeks’ summer course in journalism, and then 
began to batter at the doors of the Chronicle . A fatherly city editor 
pointed out all the traditional pitfalls supposed to strew the girl 
reporter’s path-long hours, bad food, drunkenness, a flighty ap- 
proach to life, indigestion, misanthropy. But Miss Sartain laughed 
them off and was back again when the conservative city editor 
moved on to the Sunday department and a successor was appointed. 

To show her good-will she worked for three months for nothing, 
earning her living by day, writing for the Chronicle from five 
o’clock until midnight. Then she landed on the staff at $30 a week 
and was sent out to cover a Rotary luncheon. Her first by-line ap- 
peared on an interview with Mrs. Worthington Hubbard, wife of a 
San Francisco lawyer, and the woman who hung the first Fatty 
Arbuckle jury when the comedian was tried for the death of Vir- 
ginia Rappe, the actress. Mrs. Hubbard was a personal friend of 
Miss Sartain’s and she gave her the inside story of the way in which 
a local politician had attempted to coerce, intimidate and bribe her. 

Miss Sartain did courts, crime and anything that came along in 
the months that followed. She wrote about the ’49 celebration in 
Sacramento and was one of the six Chronicle reporters who worked 
under Marjorie Driscoll in a suite in the Palace Hotel adjoining the 
room where President Harding lay dying. This was one of the more 
spectacular stories in Californian history, and a harassing assignment 
for the press, because of the mysterious rumors that spread over the 
country like wildfire when the President died. 

In the autumn of 1924 Miss Sartain went to Honolulu as the busi- 
ness partner of George Nellist, a newspaper colleague. Together 
they turned out a history of the Hawaiian Isles backed by the Star- 
Bulletin . When this task was finished Miss Sartain joined the staff of 
the paper, covered police and City Hall and sopped up sunshine. 

The City Hall beat in Honolulu was an uproarious one. The ad- 
ministration was in a frenzy all year. The Democratic mayor and 
his supervisors were at loggerheads with the Republican appointees. 
Impeachment proceedings were brought against the mayor, and he 
in turn tried to have his political enemies removed from office. This 
meant that the police had to attend the board of supervisors’ meet- 
ings to prevent bloodshed. Miss Sartain frequently had to duck 
chairs and fists. But there was little crime in the islands at the time. 
The police moved at the leisurely gait indicated by Charlie Chan. 
There was the usual amount of minor graft and now and again the 
papers grew indignant over some civic abuse. 

But on the whole the reportorial round in Honolulu was singu- 



222 


Ladies of the Press 

larly pleasant. By comparison with the metropolitan whirl, it was a 
lotos-eaters’ paradise. Flowers bloomed at all seasons. The sky was 
ceaselessly blue. There were no chilly mornings down the bay or 
snowdrifts in Jersey. Miss Sartain and her colleague, Louise Johansen, 
went to work in the morning in summer dresses and hats, and kept 
Japanese oil-paper parasols in their desks for the gay afternoon 
showers known as liquid sunshine. 

The competition was not keen. They started work at 7.30 in the 
morning; finished at 3 p.m. Then they went home and slept until 
five, when they emerged for drinks and a swim at Waikiki. After 
that they were ready for dinner, dancing and the moonlit tropical 
night. Miss Sartain toured all the large islands— Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, 
Kauai and Molokai— with an official mission and at last regretfully 
cast her ginger blossom and frangipanni leis into the iridescent 
waters off Diamond Head while the Royal Hawaiian Band played 
“Aloha Oe.” 

That phase of her newspaper career was ended. She landed in 
Shanghai on Easter Sunday, 1926. Next morning she went job- 
hunting. On the second day Charles Laval, known from Colombo 
to Yokohama, took her on his staff. He was the editor of the 
Shanghai China Press , which was owned by the Sopher brothers, 
two Bagdad Jews who had been educated at the University of Bom- 
bay. It was published primarily for the American colony in Shang- 
hai. 

By a coincidence, when she was a cub in Shanghai, her eyes fixed 
longingly on the Orient, Miss Sartain had written to Mr. Laval 
asking about prospects. He had advised her to get more experience 
in America before tackling China. She saved his letter. When she 
called to see him in Shanghai she sent it in with the pencilled nota- 
tion: “I did what you said. Now here I am. What are you going to 
do about it?” 

Mr. Laval did the obvious thing and gave her the job she wanted. 
The first person she heard about on the paper was Elsie McCormick, 
who had worked there, married and then sailed away. Time and 
again their paths crossed, but it was not until they both landed on 
the New York World that they met and discovered how often they 
had been within range of each other at the outposts of the earth. 

Miss Sartain soon found that the newspaper conventions in Shang- 
hai give the reporter plenty of time to herself. After being hired- 
a somewhat formal matter— she went home and waited for four days 
until her “contract” arrived, the usual custom. She signed and re- 
turned it and then started work the following week. 

The China Press office was* small, friendly and cluttered. The 
city editor was Anthony Hope, also a Jew from the University of 



The Earth Rocks 223 

Bombay. He always stood up when a girl reporter approached him 
—an appalling gesture for a hardened lady of the press. There never 
was any hurry about the news. Today, tomorrow, it didn’t matter. 
When he handed out an assignment he would apologize. “I know 
you’re very busy, and I don’t like to ask you to do this, but if you 
have time, will you go to this place today? But if you haven’t time, 
don’t give it a thought. Tomorrow will do.” 

The rival paper was the North China Daily News , which catered 
to the English colony. It presented the news inside and the adver- 
tisements on the front page in the approved British manner. Miss 
Sartain did the United States Court for China, and found it singu- 
larly like an American court, except that the witnesses were fre- 
quently Orientals. The British Court was like Old Bailey. She went 
the rounds of the important hotels by rickshaw, seeking interviews. 
She sailed down the Whangpoo River to meet incoming celebrities. 
She did reviews of cinema openings and amateur theatricals. But the 
climate of Shanghai ruined Miss Sartain’s health, so she went on her 
way, taking a three months’ trip around the world by way of Hong- 
kong, Manila, Singapore, Sumatra, Colombo, Port Said, Cairo and 
across Europe to Paris. 

By moving so much she sometimes caught up again with celebri- 
ties she had previously interviewed. She saw Yehudi Menuhin when 
he made his debut in San Francisco at the age of four— a fat, golden- 
haired child; she interviewed him again in Paris when he was eight; 
and caught up with him in New York years later. She found Robert 
Dollar (Cappy Ricks) in San Francisco, Honolulu, Shanghai and 
Paris. She talked to John McCormack at various ports of call. 

She worked on the Paris Times , when it was owned by Court- 
land Bishop and edited by Gaston Archambeau. Among her col- 
leagues were Vincent Sheean and Hillel Bernstein. During 1927 she 
wrote fresh, entertaining copy on celebrities passing through Paris. 
It was a period when they came in droves. 

Miss Sartain first appeared on Park Row in 1927 on her return 
from France. She sold some features to Louis Weitzenlcom of the 
Sunday World and landed on the city staff of the World in the 
spring of 1929, doing excellent work up to the time it was sold. 
Then she went over to the World-Telegram and her by-line ap- 
peared with increasing frequency over spirited pieces of satire. One 
of her smartest feats was getting inside the Wendel mansion after 
Ella’s death, for even when the spinster was no longer there to hate 
intrusion, the doors of the gloomy house were tightly closed to the 
press. But Miss Sartain was taken through the fantastic rooms by 
Isabel Koss, Ella’s only friend and one of the chief beneficiaries of 
her will. 



224 Ladies of the Press 

Miss Sartain is a warm-hearted, witty and impulsive member of 
the craft, but she has a caustic touch when she sits down at her 
typewriter. Few women reporters can surpass her at puncturing the 
arrogance, stupidity or egotism of the strange human beings who 
flit through the news columns. She spears her victims with a bland 
touch, and is a reliable reporter on straight news. Her own interests 
run to politics, economics and the social sciences. She is an ardent 
worker for the Newspaper Guild. Her husband is Carl Baumhart, 
an advertising and publicity man. 

A third newspaper woman, equally at home on the Atlantic and 
Pacific coasts, is Florabel Muir, who started her newspaper career 
in Salt Lake City, moved to the San Francisco Chronicle and worked 
as the sole woman copy reader in town, then ran a paper in Long 
Beach. After moving East she was on the Daily News and the 
Post in New York, with intervals in Hollywood. She now does pub- 
licity for Fox Films. 

Miss Muir is an enterprising reporter, trained in the dare-devil 
school. She was broken in sharply by getting an execution to cover 
for the Salt Lake Tribune . When the paper had gone to press, Ed 
Holden, her managing editor, walked over to her and said, “That 
was a good story you did. I was afraid of it. Thought you’d slop 
over, but you handled it just like a man. It was all right.” 

These words were her accolade. She was no longer a cub. She 
was not a sob sister but a regular reporter. She had many adven- 
tures after that, but none more weird than her vigil at the execution 
of a Rumanian, shot one bitter winter morning by a firing squad 
in Salt Lake City for the murder of the girl he loved. 



[ 225 1 


Chapter XIX 

THE LADIES HAVE ADVENTURES 


D orothy Dayton clubbed by police” ran a headline in the 
World on a March morning in 1926. This was once where 
the girl reporter’s press card did not save her skin. The 
policemen of Passaic, some on foot, others in sidecars, had just 
routed 3,000 strikers outside the Botany Worsted Mills, where a 
fire hose had been used for the same purpose the day before. 

Miss Dayton had been assigned by the Sun to write a special fea- 
ture story on the family life of the strikers. She stopped at a police 
station in Passaic for directions and ran into C. B. Allen of the 
World . He was just coming out. 

“Come on,” he said. “There’s trouble. The police have been break- 
ing cameras.” 

They taxied to the spot. As soon as they got out, the police sur- 
rounded them. Miss Dayton began taking notes. She was whacked 
over the arm with a nightstick and her copy paper was seized. Six 
photographers were beaten and fourteen cameras were wrecked. 
One photographer jumped into a kitchen, threw his camera under 
the sink and persuaded the housewife to let him stay instead of call- 
ing in the police. The man from the American leaped fifteen feet 
off a fire escape to elude arrest and save his film. The $2,500 motion 
picture camera owned by the Fox newsreel man was reduced to 
debris when the police seized the tripod and banged the camera 
against the pavement. 

Miss Dayton thought nothing of the incident. It was all part of 
the day’s work. But the World played up her share in the riot next 
morning and she was asked to write her own experiences for her 
paper. It is rarely that the newspaper woman encounters physical 
violence, however hazardous the spot in which she may find herself. 
But Miss Dayton’s entire newspaper career has been one of ad- 
venture and enterprise. Years earlier she spent two weeks in the 
State Penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma, in a small cell with more 
than twenty other girls. The series she wrote caused local reper- 



226 Ladies of the Tress 

cussions. Not even the warden or matron had suspected her identity. 
She was working for the Daily Oklahoman at the time. 

Her experiences were written in fourteen newspaper instalments. 
She told how the girls slept in bunks in the walls and how dreadful 
the sanitary conditions were. She described the flagrant evils of the 
institution. The circulation of her paper went up by 10,000. An 
investigation followed which led to the erection of new quarters 
for the women prisoners. Miss Dayton became famous in the district. 
She was invited to speak at an evangelical meeting. A minister turned 
to her as a martyr and said, “This poor little girl. Her soul is seared 
by the terrible experiences she has gone through.” 

This was a little more than the girl reporter had bargained for. 
Next day her paper made her write a reply to the over-zealous 
churchman. She did not feel that her soul had been seared in the least. 
She had merely done a good job of reporting. But she could not 
quell the solicitude of the reformers. They named the Dorothy Day- 
ton chapel for her. After this she did a dance hall expose at Crom- 
well. She explored the gaudy dives, talked to the girls, walked un- 
guarded through the streets where torch flames blew weirdly in the 
Oklahoman winds. Again she turned out startling pieces for her 
paper. 

Miss Dayton wrote her first short story when she was eleven and 
kept a diary from her thirteenth birthday until she was twenty-one. 
She ran a newspaper in her boarding school and wrote and de- 
stroyed a novel before she was graduated. She lived in a little coun- 
try town near San Antonio, Texas, and made her first plunge into 
the competitive world as a stenographer for a mechanical supply 
company. 

She picked up the San Antonio Express one afternoon, read an 
item in it and then announced to her colleagues: “I bet I could have 
written that. I’m going to get a job there, because I know I can do 
it.” 

Her instinct was curiously sound, for Miss Dayton today is 
one of the best women reporters in New York. At the moment she 
contented herself with addressing a heartfelt letter to the editor of 
the Express . He wrote back and said he would give her a job. But 
she didn’t snap at the chance. She insisted that he must pay her at 
least as much as she was getting as a stenographer. He agreed to that, 
too. She has always been lucky with letters. 

But it took time to mount the precarious newspaper ladder. She 
worked as assistant in the society department and wrote Sunday 
leads. Then the flu epidemic came along. The paper was short- 
handed. She got all sorts of assignments from the city desk. One of 
the first was to interview Carpso, She was tQld he woyld not see 



The Ladies Have Adventures 217 

anyone, but she heard him snoring in his private car. She wrote a 
humorous story about the discordant snoring of the great tenor and 
so got her first by-line. 

After a year on the Express she was offered a fancy publicity job. 
She traveled around Texas but was soon left high and dry, and once 
again turned her thoughts to newspaper work. This time she landed 
on a paper at Wichita Falls, Texas, the hottest place she was ever in. 
Cockroaches ran over her typewriter. So she sent out letters here 
and there, fishing for offers, until Walter Harrison, of the Daily 
Oklahoman , gave her the job in which she was to make a name for 
herself. 

She studied the police blotter and wrote crime and state politics. 
There was nothing temperate about the political feeling of the 
moment. Eggs and tomatoes were freely thrown at meetings. After 
her prison series Miss Dayton began to think of more distant fields. 
She took French leave from her office one day, saying she was 
ill, and went off into the Ozarks with some friends on a fishing 
expedition. As they were driving along they heard screams and 
came on an overturned car. Under it was the leading judge of 
the district, his neck broken. He had been talked of as candidate for 
Governor and was extremely well known. 

Miss Dayton and her friends drove to the nearest farm and got 
help. She was supposed to be at home ill, so her office was some- 
what astonished when she telephoned in from many miles away 
with one of the scoops of the year. She had recognized the judge 
at once. The story carried a seven-column streamer. Under the 
circumstances everything was forgiven. 

But Miss Dayton’s heart was set on New York. Two of her 
friends were traveling north by road. She joined them and they got 
as far as Washington, where they sold their car for $18. They came 
the rest of the way by train and arrived at Grand Central with 
knapsacks and Indian blankets. Miss Dayton tried the various news- 
paper offices. She soon saw that the going was stiff. She had been 
assigned by her Oklahoman editor to cover a beauty contest in 
Atlantic City. So she wrote a story on that, which she sold to the 
Telegraph , and another on hunting a job in New York, which she 
sold to the Evening World . 

When she called at the Sun office Edmond P. Bartnett, the city 
editor, was interested in her prison stories and suggested that she 
free-lance for the woman’s page. Eleanor Stanton, another capable 
newspaper woman, edited the page at the time. She gave Miss Day- 
ton good assignments, praised her work, and backed her up in every 
way. Within a week Mr. Bartnett took her over on the city staff. 
Soon she was assigned to cover a Japanese princess who Was staying 



228 Ladies of the Press 

at the Waldorf-Astoria. There were hand-outs from the press agent, 
Albert Crockett, but it was understood that no one could interview 
a princess. Miss Dayton, not knowing any of her colleagues, kept 
talking to a Japanese who was sitting in the group. When the others 
left he said, “I am going in to make a picture of the Princess. You 
can come as my assistant.” 

So Miss Dayton carried in his plates and talked to the Princess. 
She got enough material for a good story. Mr. Crockett called up 
Mr. Bartnett and said that she had been the only reporter to get in. 
Soon afterwards she trailed Queen Marie on her American so- 
journ. The press arrangements were particularly messed up in Phila- 
delphia. The officials of the hotel where the Queen was staying 
high-hatted the reporters. Because his luggage was lost, the Prince 
was late for a dinner given in their honor. He had to sneak in 
through the servants’ entrance. A policeman told Miss Dayton that 
the Prince had lost his pants with the missing luggage, so she wrote 
a facetious story about this royal mishap. 

On the day that Colonel Lindbergh arrived in Washington on a 
cruiser after his trans-Atlantic flight Miss Dayton did the news lead 
on the story for the Sun — the sort of assignment that her paper 
rarely entrusts to a woman. It was a gorgeous summer day. Crowds 
saw the ship come in and Lindbergh’s blond head on the bridge. 
He was still the bachelor flyer, almost a symbolic figure. Miss Dayton 
had a taxi waiting around the comer to rush her to her bureau. 
But a navy guard with bayonets blocked her way. 

“You can’t get through here,” they told her. 

“But I must” said Miss Dayton, her afternoon deadline in mind, 
and before they could stop her she had crawled under a bayonet 
and was fleeing hot-footed toward her taxi. This was an important 
story for a girl to write single-handed and she did an excellent job 
of it. 

Like most of her contemporaries, Miss Dayton sat in at the Hall- 
Mills, Snyder-Gray and Browning trials, doing features for her 
paper. She covered the King of Siam and the other visiting royalties 
of the last decade. In spite of all her adventures she is far from being 
the hard-boiled girl reporter. She holds liberal views on social and 
political questions. She is dark, attractive, a good thinker, a skilled 
writer, and undoubtedly she is one of the more enterprising mem- 
bers of her profession. 

Sitting often at the same press table with Miss Dayton is another 
reporter who has adventured here and there and always knows what 
to do when a story breaks. She is Irene Corbally Kuhn, of the 
World-Telegram until her appointment as managing editor of the 
New York Woman in the summer of 1936. She was bom in Green- 



The Ladies Have Adventures 229 

wich Village when it really was a village, with backyard gardens, 
trees in the streets, band concerts in the parks and May parties in 
Central Park on Saturdays, reached by chartered trolley cars with 
ribbons flying from their poles. The horse cars used to jog and 
jingle through West Houston Street, where she was bom, a stone’s 
throw from her maternal grandfather’s cooperage shop, established 
by him around Civil War time. Her father was a Dublin man. Her 
maternal grandparents were Irish, too. 

Miss Kuhn had the writing craze when she was still in school. At 
sixteen she got her first job— as a stenographer making $9 a week. 
Then she took classes at Columbia and soon learned that the way to 
land on a New York paper was to get out-of-town experience. In 
1919 she went to work on the Syracuse Herald at $18 a week. 
She was frightened out of her wits. It was the first time she had been 
away from home. Her family made her send her laundry back each 
week and she lived in a house with two prim maiden ladies. 

Her paper ran the Inquiring Reporter box which had been 
launched some time earlier in the New York Globe . When her city 
editor handed her a slip with the question on it: “Do you wear 
pyjamas or a night shirt, suspenders or a belt? Why?” she went out 
into the street to get ten answers. She spent fifteen minutes screwing 
up courage; then, on the principle that the worst should come first, 
she asked a traffic policeman. He looked at her as if she were crazy. 
She explained who she was and why she was so interested in his 
haberdashery. He laughed heartily, gave her the answers and a pat 
on the back, and called on some of his friends to help her out. She 
stayed on the job all morning, got ten answers and returned in high 
fettle. 

“And where the hell have you been?” her city editor demanded. 

She showed him the results of her morning’s work. 

“For God’s sake,” he said, “you weren’t supposed to get all that. 
Everyone on the staff asks one person. The answers are compiled at 
the end of the day.” 

Ten days later Miss Kuhn scooped the town with a picture and 
spread on the daughters of Nathan L. Miller, who was then candi- 
date for Governor. She was raised to $25 a week. 

While still in Syracuse she flew with Tex McLaughlin for a story. 
The egg crate he was piloting was a remodeled war plane. She was 
strapped into the open cockpit, given a pair of goggles and off they 
went. He gave her a thorough initiation. They looped, did Immer- 
man turns, the falling leaf and every trick known to airmen at the 
time. When she came down thirty minutes later Miss Kuhn confessed 
that she had never been up in an airplane before. She was one of 
the first women reporters to fly for a story. Next day McLaughlin, 



230 Ladies of the Press 

whose special stunt was changing from one plane to another, was 
the victim of an air pocket that held the two planes in position a 
fraction of an instant too long. He was swung into the propellor of 
one and his back was slashed to ribbons. He died two days later. 

At the end of six months Miss Kuhn arrived in New York with a 
letter of introduction and Mr. Payne took her on the Mirror. These 
were the days when tabloids were regarded with great suspicion and 
every citizen felt it was his duty to kick the tabloid reporter who 
came to his door right into the street. Miss Kuhn learned during this 
period that a tough hide is useful equipment for a reporter. 

Nearly a year later she had a chance to go to Europe on an ad- 
vertising job. She took a letter from Mr. Payne to Floyd Gibbons, 
then European director of the Chicago Tribune bureaus and editor 
of the Paris edition of his paper. She soon had occasion to use it, 
for her other work blew up. She walked into the Tribune office 
just when Rosemary Carr had given notice. She was returning to 
America to marry Stephen Vincent Benet. Miss Kuhn was em- 
ployed to take her place. She became fashion editor, feature writer 
and general reporter. She did a series of stories on the American 
Army of Occupation in Germany; chased Grover Bergdoll all 
over Switzerland; and covered Deauville and the resorts in clothes 
borrowed from the couturiers for show-off purposes. 

Peggy Hull, war correspondent on three fronts— Mexico, France 
and Siberia— and now the wife of Harvey Deuell, managing editor 
of the News , was in Paris preparing to go to Shanghai. It was sug- 
gested laughingly at her farewell party that Miss Kuhn should go 
along. The idea appealed to her. Braced with two goblets of cham- 
pagne she hurried over to the Tribune office and handed in her 
resignation. She left Paris with just enough money to buy passage 
on the 4,200 ton Japanese freighter that was taking Miss Hull to 
Shanghai. Once aboard they were suspected of being spies. Miss 
Hull had pictures of herself in uniform on display in her cabin. 
They were never out of quizzing range of the ship’s officers. 

Miss Hull left the ship at Hongkong. Miss Kuhn went on to 
Shanghai. The night she sailed north, a general strike was declared 
at Hongkong. Not a wheel turned. Not a ship moved out of the 
harbor after theirs. The paralysis lasted for six weeks. She got to 
Shanghai in the middle of the New Year holidays, with everything 
closed down tight. She had approximately $50 in gold. Her hotel 
bill at the end of three days was {36. Just as the shutters were taken 
down from the shop windows and business began again she met 
Herbert Webb, editor of the China Press , and he gave her a job on 
the Evening Star , an American paper owned by the same publisher. 
The staffs were interchangeable. 



The Ladies Have Adventures 231 

The first day she went to work she attended a newspaper wed- 
ding, caught the bridal bouquet and there met her future husband, 
Bert L. Kuhn, a Chicago newspaper man who had been city editor 
of the Bulletin in Manila and had responded to a good cable offer 
from Mr. Webb to become news editor of the China Press . They 
were married four months later and after a time moved to Hono- 
lulu where their daughter was born. Mr. Kuhn worked there on 
the Star-Bulletin . His wife was correspondent for I.N.S. For the 
first time in her life she also kept house and cooked. Ten days 
before her baby was bom she scooped the A.P. and the U.P. with 
the story of a tidal wave. The I.N.S. bonus virtually paid for the 
baby. 

When the child, Rene Leilani Kuhn, was five months old they 
went back to Shanghai at Webb’s request. They started off with 
the infant in a cradle made out of a slat-sided box, covered with 
mosquito netting and fitted between the bunks on board ship. One 
day out of Honolulu they ran into a storm that tore down the 
wireless, caused many mishaps and kept them out of communi- 
cation for three days. They arrived in Yokohama without scenting 
trouble and some hours later sailed for Kobe, where at noon the 
next day, while they were lunching in the Oriental Hotel, they 
were suddenly pitched out of their seats by the first shock of the 
great Japanese earthquake. 

The second shock came almost immediately. Chandeliers were 
swaying, dishes clattering on the floor as they ran into the streets. 
There was the eerie feeling of being suspended in mid-air while 
they waited. It passed and they dismissed it as just another Japanese 
earthquake. But that night the ship’s radio brought news of the 
terrific damage done. 

In Shanghai new adventures overtook them. They shared in the 
excitement of the riots of the summer of 1925. Miss Kuhn helped 
to organize the Women’s Volunteer Motor Canteen Corps which 
took food and drink to the volunteers and the marines of all nations 
doing outpost duty around the settlement. They set out at midnight 
each night and returned at six in the morning. 

Then the paper changed hands. Attempts were made to break 
their contract. They had to take alternate four-hour shifts. While 
one of them worked the other stayed at home, watched the baby 
and guarded the house with a gun. There were no servants. Their 
nurse vanished one night and came back in the morning badly 
beaten up. They cooked on toasters and grills, plugged in on the 
stairs or wherever they could put them. 

Miss Kuhn was one of the first women to broadcast in the Orient. 
When the station was established in 1925 parts were bootlegged in 



232 Ladies of the Press 

and set up, until eventually there was a sending station as well as sev- 
eral radios around town. This was the only means of communication 
and was used as a warning to isolated sectors when the internecine 
wars began boiling after the Communist trouble in 1925. 

In the late autumn of that year Miss Kuhn sailed for America 
with her baby. At Vancouver, an hour before her ship was due to 
sail, she had word that her husband had died from unknown causes. 
She free-lanced for six months in Chicago, then moved to New 
York and went to work for Mr. Payne on the Mirror in July, 1926. 
Almost at once she was assigned to the Hall-Mills case and was told 
to find a woman, deaf from birth, who could read lips, but this 
fell plan of Mr. Payne’s did not lead to any startling results. She 
worked on the Lindbergh flight and covered the trial of Leonard 
Cline, the talented newspaper man who shot a friend in a drunken 
argument and some time later killed himself. 

Miss Kuhn did the Snyder-Gray case from beginning to end and 
chaperoned some of the trained seals employed by her paper on 
this occasion. She wrote Peggy Hopkins Joyce’s stories so that they 
fooled even Peggy herself. She did an interview with Ruth Snyder 
on behalf of her colleagues. A rival paper tried to circumvent her, 
but some of the newspaper men carried Irene through the hall so 
that her feet never touched the ground, and pushed her through 
the door to foil her competitors. She took in Evelyn Boone, of the 
American, for confirmation. 

Evelyn was another of the smart newspaper women of the period. 
She did excellent work while she was on the American and was 
the first reporter to get an interview with the hostile Mrs. Hall 
during the exciting days of the Halls-Mills trial. 

From the Mirror Miss Kuhn moved to the News , where she 
covered the usual assortment of murders, scandals and lively doings. 
She was sent to Washington to chronicle the social snarl created by 
Dolly Gann and Alice Longworth. She was assigned to the test 
dinner, which was to establish Mrs. Gann’s status beyond question. 
She had no card, but Carlos Davila, the Ambassador from Chile, got 
her in and provided her with an escort. Later she had an excellent 
interview with Mrs. Gann, in which the vice-president’s sister 
launched some homely back fence philosophy. 

Miss Kuhn worked for Liberty for a time and took six months’ 
leave of absence to revisit Hawaii, where she did a beach column 
and police news for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin , and an investiga- 
tion of juvenile delinquency in the islands. She returned to the 
News and did rewrite. Then she went to Hollywood in 1931 to 
work for Fox Films. Two yeairs later she returned and joined the 
staff of the World-Telegram , where she did features of all kinds. 



The Ladies Have Adventures 23 ^ 

One of her best jobs was a series from London on the rise of motion 
pictures in England. 

Miss Kuhn is one of the more capable members of her profession. 
Her experience has been broad and exciting. She knows how to get 
news and what to do with it. She is not easily diverted from her 
purpose, but has the strong will and sturdy spirit that make the 
good reporter. She is the wife of Gerald Breitigam, feature editor of 
the World-Telegram . 

A beauty contest indirectly propelled Mabel Greene, of the Sun, 
into newspaper work. She was bom in Avoca, Iowa, attended high 
school there and later taught school near her birthplace, walking 
five miles morning and evening to a country district where she had 
sixteen boys to manage. They did all the work, built the fires, swept 
the floors and washed the blackboards, so that she had time to read 
the Omaha World-Herald during the noon recess periods. One day 
the paper announced a beauty contest for the best-looking blonde 
and brunette, to be selected from six of each type in Iowa and Ne- 
braska. Miss Greene showed the paper to a friend who, without her 
knowledge, entered two photographs taken when Mabel was grad- 
uated from high school. 

The following Friday the appalling news came over the telephone 
that she had been chosen as one of the six brunette beauties. Her 
mother received the message and before she hung up the receiver 
Mabel had summarily withdrawn from the contest. But her retire- 
ment from the lists came too late for the editors of the World- 
Herald to kill the cut of her which already had gone to press. 
When her mother saw the Sunday paper there were serious rever- 
berations. 

After this Miss Greene did summer work for the World- 
Herald, then drifted into War Savings and Liberty Loan campaign 
work in Missouri. On Armistice Day she arrived in St. Louis with 
$50, no acquaintances and no job. By some miracle she landed on 
the Post-Dispatch , which is usually a closed shop to the newspaper 
woman. She was soon launched on special drives and campaigns. 
Shortly after joining the staff she won a prize of $100 offered 
by the publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., in an annual competition for 
suggested improvements in the paper. She told him that the woman’s 
page was terrible. During the next seven years she had a chance to 
put some of her ideas into effect. She made up the woman’s page for 
more than three years, working under the direction of Harry Nie- 
meyer, the feature editor. She ran a daily food column and did all 
sorts of odd jobs. Meanwhile she hounded the managing editor for 
city staff assignments— until at last he sent her out on the story of a 



234 Ladies of the Press 

club woman who had been sued by another woman for alienating 
her husband’s affections. 

“Mrs. X. disappeared with her elderly, semi-invalid father just 
half an hour before process servers arrived at her home to serve her 
in the suit,” he told Miss Greene. “The best reporters in town have 
been hunting for her for a week without success. If you can locate 
her and get a statement I’ll see about giving you a chance on the 
staff.” 

Miss Greene went out and found the woman, after deciding what 
she would have done under similar circumstances. It was mid- 
winter and she learned from friends that the love pirate had talked 
of taking her elderly father to a warmer climate. Miss Greene 
checked the hour of her departure from her home through a taxi 
driver and neighbors, traced her to Union Station, and then, armed 
with a photograph of the woman which she borrowed from the 
Post-Dispatch morgue, she interviewed Pullman porters until she 
found one who remembered seeing her in his car on her way to 
Jacksonville, Florida. He recognized her picture and remembered 
that her father had needed a wheel chair to leave the train. With 
that information she went to the woman’s lawyer and pulled a 
bluff. 

“I’m off to Jacksonville to see Mrs. X.—” she began. 

The attorney capitulated. He said he would get his client’s side 
of the story for Miss Greene. She made him telegraph for it, and 
when the letter came the opening sentence made a good lead. It 
read: “Nine Wives had faith in Mrs. X. when she worked in the 
business and professional world with their husbands ” 

Miss Greene was sent to Louisville to cover the Kentucky Derby 
from a fashion and social angle. She saw a black two-year-old win 
a race and decided she would bet on him, if he were entered in the 
next year’s Derby. She put $15 across the board in the winter books 
the following January, and Flying Ebony galloped home with $500 
for her. So she resigned from the Post-Dispatch, went to California, 
and by this roundabout way landed in New York in January, 1926, 
with $12 and no job. She spent nearly a year as fiction editor of the 
McClure Newspaper Syndicate, writing newspaper serials in her 
spare time. She earned $1,000 for one story written during the eve- 
nings over a period of six weeks, so she began to free-lance and 
learned about markets during the next two years. 

Then for six months she toured the country as personal road rep- 
resentative for Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson and the American 
Museum of Natural History, publicizing the lion picture “Simba.” 
When she was offered a job on the Sun in 1929 after putting up a 



The Ladies Have Adventures 235 

constant bombardment, she left the Johnsons and their lions flat in 
Birmingham, Alabama, and hurried to New York. 

In the next six and a half years Miss Greene covered many of the 
exciting stories of the day. She did the news lead on the Starr 
Faithfull case. After four months’ close investigation, she brought 
about the doom of Town Topics , the scandal magazine started by 
Colonel William Dalton Mann, and also its companion publication, 
the Tatler and American Sketch , which rated debutantes according 
to the stock-buying abilities of their parents. She brought the stock- 
selling rackets of the publishers to the attention of the Attorney- 
General, with the result that permanent injunctions were finally is- 
sued against the owners and editors. 

She was the only newspaper reporter to get into Hauptmann’s 
home for five days after his arrest as the kidnapper of the Lind- 
bergh baby. In spite of the triple guard of New York police, New 
Jersey State troopers and federal officers, she had a story describing 
in detail the interior of the bouse, particularly the nursery furnished 
by Hauptmann for his own baby from the proceeds of the Lind- 
bergh ransom money. 

Miss Greene’s toughest assignment was rewriting the Bible. In 
March, 1933, the Sun discovered one of the few known copies of 
the only book that gives a complete chronological story of the 
Bible in pictures— Matthew Merian’s leones Biblicae, a series of 
nearly 250 etchings. She wrote the captions for the series, which the 
Sun printed over a period of nearly eight months. She condensed the 
text of the Bible into a running story. It entailed two months’ hard 
work. 

Miss Greene is the wife of Edgar R. Bean, news editor of the 
News. Her sister, Elinor Greene, is also a newspaper woman, who 
worked on the Detroit Mirror , the Boston American and Boston 
Sunday Advertiser . She free-lanced her way around the world, 
doing feature articles for English and American papers. After sev- 
eral months in the Far East she returned to New York and now 
does publicity and advertising for Elizabeth Arden. 

Working on Park Row in the booming twenties was Elisabeth 
Smith, who wrote for the Telegram for six years and survived three 
of Mr. Munsey’s mergers. She first became interested in newspaper 
work through Florence Davies, of the Detroit News, whom she 
met while taking her master’s degree at Columbia. Armed with a 
Phi Beta Kappa key, but unable to distinguish agate from ten-point 
century, she offered her literary wares in Herald Square. She would 
have acted as charwoman to James Gordon Bennett’s famous stair- 
case, if necessary, in order to get on the paper. 

Frank Sullivan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., and Miss Smith all 



23 6 Ladies of the Tress 

started their newspaper careers together in the same week and the 
same city room. At first she did a school column, then moved on to 
murders and other front-page news. She became familiar with the 
murderess of respectable mien, who invariably wore black kid gloves 
at her trial and looked as if she could make the best watermelon 
preserves in the county town. 

Alice Paul did her best to persuade her that she was oppressed by 
her employers because she was a woman. 

“But I earn more than a great many of the men,” Miss Smith 
remonstrated. “Any intelligent newspaper woman gets as good a 
break as a man.” 

Miss Paul glared at her. “But you can’t be an editor,” she said 
triumphantly. 

“But I don’t want to be an editor,” said Miss Smith. 

On one of her first assignments she got a helping hand from a 
quiet newspaper man who chatted with her for a couple of hours 
while the story they were covering unfolded in Central Park. 

“Who was that?” she asked a colleague later. 

“Why, don’t you know? That was Frank Ward O’Malley,” he 
said, with a touch of reverence. 

Miss Smith, who is a cousin of Charles Brackett, is now out of the 
newspaper game and is married to Andy Ford, who was her man- 
aging editor on the Telegram . She and Elizabeth Custer, the sister- 
in-law of Scott Nearing, both worked on the paper with Jane Dixon. 

It is a rare circumstance for the girls who work on the Brooklyn 
papers to cross the bridge and seek jobs in Manhattan. But Grace 
Cutler, now Mrs. Beverly Smith, is one of the exceptions. She moved 
from the Eagle to the Daily News and then to the Journal. Work- 
ing with her on the Eagle was Marjorie Dorman, the enterprising 
reporter who once invaded the White House kitchen, wrote thou- 
sands of words on Nathalia Crane, Brooklyn’s child poet, and did 
bold work on most of the big stories of the period. Miss Dorman 
was an experienced reporter who let nothing in the way of ob- 
stacles stop her. 

She was followed by Isabelle Keating, who took a course in 
journalism at the University of Colorado and moved to New York 
after preliminary newspaper experience in Denver and in Boulder, 
Colorado. She worked briefly for the Associated Press and then 
got practical experience editing the Nyack Evening Journal , a six- 
column four-page paper with two pages of boiler plate inside, hand 
set heads and almost illegible type on the front and back pages. It 
was run off on an old flat bed* press that groaned and trembled over 
each copy. It threw them out, unfolded, across the composing 



The Ladies Have Adventures 237 

room floor. As it started to roll, all hands were needed to catch and 
subdue the leaping papers. 

When a new management transferred the publication to a better 
building, a make-up stone rolled off its carriage and was found to 
be a tombstone. The underside, chipped but still legible, was in- 
scribed to Ezra, a four-year-old child who died in the early 1800’s. 
In the new plant the Journal was published in standard size. With 
two local newspaper women to help her, Miss Keating did an ener- 
getic job getting out the paper, while the townspeople watched 
with wonder and interest. 

Within a year she tried New York again and went to work on 
the Eagle , where she remained for eight years. During that period 
she had ample experience and became a first-class craftsman. It was 
she who discovered that Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s 
teacher, had become totally blind, and that the pupil had turned 
teacher. There was a scramble for the story once she had broken it 
in the Eagle . It was one of the human interest tales in which all city 
desks take satisfaction. 

Efforts were made to get her into the death house at Sing Sing 
for the execution of Mrs. Anna Antonio, the wretched woman who 
hired two men to kill her husband for his insurance and who paid 
the price in August, 1934. She was twenty-eight years old, the 
mother of three, and the more sensational papers worked up con- 
siderable feeling on her behalf. Warden Lawes informed the Eagle 
that the last woman to witness an execution had been Nellie Bly 
and that it had upset her greatly. So the city desk sent a man to the 
execution, but he fainted, just as any sob sister might have been 
expected to do. 

Miss Keating organized the Eagle unit of the Newspaper Guild 
and was elected twice to the Guild’s executive board. She stirred 
up a flurry of praise and criticism with an article she did on the 
Guild for Harpers Magazine , and became recognized as an authority 
on the subject. She was persuaded during her early days on the Eagle 
that reporters were shockingly underpaid and that their hours were 
long beyond all reason. Her paper had a space assignment system 
which netted them $1 a story, no matter how many hours they 
worked. She was on call twenty-four hours a day seven days a week; 
but the assignments handed out to her often brought her no more 
than $5 or $10 a week. At the best, working eighteen or twenty 
hours a day, she might make $13. Remembering the unremunerative 
grind of her early days on the paper, she became a sincere advocate 
of the Guild, to which nearly all the newspaper women of New 
York now lend support, some passively, others with fervor. 



238 Ladies of the Tress 

Miss Keating met her husband, Morton Saveli, when he was Sun- 
day editor of the Eagle. He is now managing editor of the Literary 
Digest . They have an infant son, Michael. 

The other girl reporter from Brooklyn most often seen on big 
assignments is red-haired Alice Cogan, bom of a newspaper family. 
She has divided her sixteen years of reporting between the Eagle 
and the Times Union. She started newspaper work at the age of 
seventeen, green from high school. She wrote the lead on the Hall- 
Mills trial and did feature stories on the Snyder-Gray and Haupt- 
mann trials. Once, when she was sent to interview the president of a 
reptile society, she sat in the dusk chatting to the woman for fifteen 
minutes before the lights were turned on. Then Miss Cogan jumped 
to her feet. The room was full of snakes. They were curled on the 
buffet, victrola, chairs and tables. She got out as fast as she could. 
She found this the most terrifying of her newspaper experiences. 

Miss Cogan’s parents met forty years ago when they were both 
working for the Eagle. Her mother, Anne Luxton, was a proof- 
reader, and the only person on the paper who could read Joseph 
Cogan’s handwriting. He has done newspaper work for fifty years 
and is still writing editorials for the Times Union. Her sister, Con- 
stance, works for the Brooklyn section of the American. 

In the autumn of 1888 a Brooklyn newspaper woman, Mrs. Eliza 
Putnam Heaton, took passage from Liverpool to New York in the 
steerage of the Aurania to study life among the immigrants, much as 
Genevieve Forbes Herrick did thirty years later. She landed at 
Castle Garden and accompanied her fellow passengers to Chicago 
on an immigrant train. Her stories were written for the Brooklyn 
Times. Her husband, John L. Heaton, was associate editor of the 
paper at the time. When the New York Recorder was launched in 
1891, Mrs. Heaton started the woman’s page and made a success 
of it. When her husband established the Providence News she went 
with him, and Mrs. Christine Terhune Herrick, daughter of Marion 
Harland, succeeded her on the Recorder. 

Today New York has one woman managing editor, Peggy 
Foldes, who runs the North Side News and is so well known in her 
borough that when someone cut her picture out of a paper, pasted 
it on a postcard and addressed it to Peggy, the Bronx, it went 
straight to her desk. 

Miss Foldes does local editorials, makes up the front page, writes 
the streamers, does theatrical reviews and turns out a gossip column 
about Bronx politicians which she calls “Peggy’s Diary.” She has 
ten reporters on her staff and has to spend considerable time inter- 
viewing the journalism graduates who are looking for a start on a 



The Ladies Have Adventures 239 

smaller paper and consider the North Side News a good jumping-off 
place. 

She made her own newspaper start this way on the advice of the 
talented Lester Markel, now Sunday magazine editor of the Times. 
For two years he held the post that she now has on the North Side 
News. George W. Markey, publisher of the paper, told her that she 
could hang around the office and do odd jobs for her luncheons 
and carfare. During her first week in the city room she was assigned 
to an automobile accident in which a family of seven was wiped 
out. She wept as she wrote her story. It made the front page with 
a by-line. She was taken on the staff at $10 a week, and soon learned 
the ropes, from proofreading to covering murder trials. 

She was editing the National Centre , a weekly published in Wash- 
ington, when Mr. Markey wired her to return to the North Side 
News as quickly as possible to pinch-hit for the managing editor. 
She was twenty-four and looked young and flapperish. She was 
told the post would not be permanent, but she still holds it, after 
nine years. At first the men in the composing room resented dicta- 
tion from a woman. Miss Foldes stopped the presses oftener than 
was necessary, chiefly because it gave her a feeling of power to 
think that the roaring machines would halt for her. But she soon 
learned better. 

Her paper is Democratic. She attends conventions, political ban- 
quets and all local functions of any consequence. Everyone knows 
her as Peggy. She was bom in Budapest, came to the United States 
for a visit before the war, settled down, attended high school, then 
the Columbia School of Journalism, got married, had a baby, was 
divorced and is now married again, to Lou Joffe, an attorney whom 
she met while doing newspaper work in Washington. 

Miss Foldes has no trouble keeping her staff in order. It’s an old 
story now to have a woman managing editor on the North Side 
News. 



[ 240 ] 


Chapter XX 

THROUGH PRISON WALLS 


O UTSIDE THE IRON GATES OF CHARLESTOWN PRISON, MaSSA- 
chusetts, a crowd of 5,000 men and women shouted and 
roared with the atavism of those who take odd comfort 
from watching gray walls while criminals die inside. Now and 
again a voice rose sharply above the din with “Let them die!” 

It was June 7, 1935, and the men due to go in quick succession to 
the electric chair were Murton Millen, Irving Millen and Abe 
Faber, killers and bank robbers. 

At the gates a slim, dark girl was trying to push her way past the 
guards. 

“But I’m Dorothy Kilgallen, of the New York Journal. I’m as- 
signed to cover the execution for my paper. I must get in.” 

“Quit kidding us,” they told her for the tenth time. “You’re no 
reporter. What would you be doing at an execution, anyway?” 

Dorothy is the daughter of James Kilgallen, one of the ablest re- 
porters in America and for years star man on I.N.S. until he be- 
came assistant to Joseph V. Connolly, of King Features. 

She was bursting with indignation. She couldn’t cajole or force 
her way past the guards. She knew that she had to be there. She 
was in despair when a batch of her colleagues drove up. 

“What’s wrong, Dorothy?” they demanded. 

“They don’t believe that I’ve got to get in,” she said. “You tell 
them.” 

“Say, what’s wrong with you, anyway?” said one of the peremp- 
tory gentlemen of the press to an abashed guard. “Don’t you know 
she’s one of us? You can’t keep her out. She’s a swell reporter. 
She’s got as much right here as anyone.” 

Miss Kilgallen got in. In Massachusetts it is customary to allow 
only one reporter to witness an execution. He then describes it to 
all the others, who wait for him in the warden’s office. This rule 
was followed in the Sacco- Vanzetti case. Three representatives of 
the news services, however, were admitted to the Millen-Faber exe- 
cution. Miss Kilgallen, being a girl, was barred. The death chamber 



Through Prison Walls 241 

is one of the few spots that the girl reporter cannot enter, the cinema 
notwithstanding, except in certain states or under unusual condi- 
tions. 

At midnight eight witnesses entered the buff-colored room. There 
were three chairs but no one sat. One dim electric light hung from 
the ceiling. Gas flickered blue in jets on the wall. The yellow door 
to the left opened and Murton Millen walked in. 

During the three executions Miss Kilgallen stayed in a bleak little 
room near the death chamber, listening to a deputy warden report, 
over a prison telephone: “Irving’s in the chair now .... the first 
shock, 2,000” .... pause .... “second shock, 1,500” .... pause 
. . . “third shock” .... “fourth shock” .... “He’s dead.” 

She listened to the same story with slight variations three times 
over. A few minutes later she heard the report of her colleagues 
who had witnessed what happened. She sat down at her typewriter, 
shaken. She wrote a story that crackled and stang. It was different 
from the sentimental style of Nellie Bly when she covered the 
Hamby execution for the same paper fifteen years earlier. 

Like their colleagues of the other sex, girl reporters turn sick 
when they are assigned to do any work on an execution. It is 
scarcely their job, but they do it, for death and catastrophe are the 
daily lot of any reporter on a metropolitan paper. Miss Kilgallen 
was only twenty-one when she came face to face with her first 
execution. She had an early baptism in lurid journalism. At seven- 
teen she was out on the street, sometimes working on the same story 
as her father. In four years’ time she achieved the ranking of a star, 
for she quickly displayed a real gift for her work. 

When the trial of Hauptmann was in progress at Flemington she 
neatly scooped her father. She got an advance interview with 
Bruno through his lawyers, indicating what he would say on the 
witness stand. I.N.S. picked up the story and sent it over the wires. 
It led the Hearst afternoon papers throughout the country. Dorothy 
had stolen the lead from her father. But Mr. Kilgallen has never put 
anything over on his bright young daughter, notwithstanding the 
fact that there is no such thing as family solidarity around the press 
table. When husband and wife, or father and daughter, work to- 
gether on a story, the competition is cutthroat. The paper comes 
first. 

Mr. Kilgallen never intended that his daughter should be a news- 
paper woman. He had seen too many of them worked to death, 
and sitting through murky court testimony that would turn the 
stoutest stomach. He felt a bit like the editors who were queried by 
Mr. Bok at the turn of the century as to whether they would like 
their daughters to become newspaper women. Dorothy had no par- 



242 Ladies of the Press 

ticular longings in this direction herself. It never struck her that 
newspaper work would be fascinating. Few members of a news- 
paper family do. She knew that her father had odd hours and was 
always out of town. 

She was at the end of her freshman year at the College of New 
Rochelle when she went to a party with her parents and there met 
Amster Spiro, city editor of the Journal . Mr. Spiro is the only city 
editor left in New York who approximates the motion picture con- 
ception of a frenzied gent with five telephones working simul- 
taneously while he bawls out the staff. 

“I suppose you’re going to make a reporter out of her,” he said, 
looking at the dark graceful girl, convent bred. 

“Not if I know it,” said Mr. Kilgallen emphatically. 

“Well, if you decide to put her to work, I’ll give her a job,” said 
Mr. Spiro. 

She went back to college with this suggestion vaguely implanted 
in her head. When she told her friends about it they thought it a 
dazzling idea. They were all cinema fans. Oh, to be a girl reporter, 
save the innocent lad from the chair, stop the presses (that non- 
sensical touch that has practically no reality in the authentic news- 
paper world), beat the town, and marry the hateful star on the rival 
paper! 

Miss Kilgallen caught some of the excitement. She went home and 
insisted that her father let her go to see Mr. Spiro. He consented, 
after much persuasion. On her way to a prep school prom she 
stopped in at the Journal , told Mr. Spiro she had an hour in which 
to make a train, and asked him to give her a job. 

It was a casual way of going about the desperat* difficult task 
of getting on a New York paper, but her father’s fine reputation 
was sufficient guarantee for any editor. Mr. Spiro said he would 
give her two weeks’ trial. That was in June, 1931. When she got 
back from the dance she started work and she never went back to 
college. 

She looked the part of the sweet girl graduate as she stepped out 
on her first assignment. Her professional ducking was swift and 
thorough. For the first summer she practically lived in police sta- 
tions, court houses, hospitals and the morgue. It wasn’t easy. News- 
paper work was exciting enough, but more of a struggle than she 
had imagined. But she stuck it out and became an excellent reporter. 
No one tried to make things easy for her because she was Jimmie 
Kilgallen’s daughter. When an assistant city editor on her paper 
discovered one day that she had never seen a dead body, he set 
out to correct this inexperience. She was assigned repeatedly to the 
morgue. She wrote a succession of stories about unidentified sui- 



Through Prison Walls 243 

rides, described their clothes and urged their relatives to come 
forward and claim them. She interviewed every sort of freak and 
celebrity. 

The infantile paralysis epidemic was raging that summer, and she 
spent hours talking to children in respirators. She gave all the chil- 
dren names so that they could be identified in the stories— “Angel 
Face Tommy,” “Sunshine Sally” and “Smiling Ben.” Nobody 
wanted to go near her while she was engaged on this dangerous task. 

Then for the first time she met her father on a story, proving 
that she had made the grade as a star. They were both working on 
the Collings mystery. In September, 1931, newspaper readers first 
became aware of the existence of Mrs. Lillian Collings, a sad-faced 
woman who told of an elderly man and a youth boarding her hus- 
band’s cabin cruiser in Long Island Sound, beating him, trussing 
him and throwing him overboard. They forced her into a canoe, 
leaving her daughter Barbara in the cruiser. Next morning she was 
found by some boatmen to whom she told her weird tale of attack 
and murder. She was held for questioning but was soon released 
when her story stood up at every point. Her husband’s body was 
washed ashore, battered and bound with rope, as she had described 
it. It was a particularly savage and seemingly motiveless crime. 

While Mrs. Collings was being questioned she ferried over every 
day from Stamford to Mineola for conferences with District Attor- 
ney Elvin I. Edwards and Inspector Harold King, both veterans of 
a number of mysteries, including the Starr Faithfull case. Miss Kil- 
gallen usually accompanied her. One afternoon, as the ferry pulled 
in at the Long Island side, she saw a familiar-looking figure, copy 
paper in hand, waiting on the dock to greet them. 

The other reporters were astonished to see a girl in an Empress 
Eugenie hat run off the boat and kiss “Kil.” 

“Why, hello, dad,” she cried. “What are you doing here?” 

After this, father and daughter met repeatedly on stories. They 
were both in court on the day that Mayor Walker testified at the 
Seabury hearing. They worked together on the Morro Castle dis- 
aster and the investigation that followed it. When the ferry boat 
Observation was blown to smithereens in the East River with a 
boiler explosion on the morning of September 9, 1932, Dorothy was 
counting up the long row of dead lying in a shed on the wharf 
when she bumped into another reporter who proved to be her father. 
He had started at one end of the row, she at the other, and they met 
in the middle. The men had been tossed into the air, blown on roof- 
tops or into the water. Seventy-two were killed; sixty-three were 
injured. 

As is customary on the more sensational papers, Miss Kilgallen 



244 * Ladies of the Press 

did features at first on the big stories of the day, but as time went 
on and she grew more experienced, she was trusted with the lead 
on a number of important assignments. The first trial she covered 
single-handed was that of Jessie Costello, the capricious belle who 
was tried at Salem, Massachusetts, in August, 1933, for feeding her 
husband cyanide. 

The trial lasted for five weeks and Miss Kilgallen wrote 250,000 
words of copy. The jurors sent flowers to her hotel room every day. 
She never could understand why. Jurors are a strange species who 
sometimes entertain themselves watching the antics of the press when 
the witnesses bore them. They picked the flowers during their 
morning walks, and one of the local papers carried a story about it. 
There was no doubt that they were unconventional jurors. They 
sent a box of candy to black-eyed Jessie while the trial was going 
on, and acquitted her triumphantly when it was over. They wanted 
her to know how completely they were on her side. 

Edward J. McMahon, the kiss-and-tell policeman who figured 
prominently in the story as Jessie’s lover, was the star witness against 
her. The papers rode him so hard that he detested the sight of a 
reporter. But Miss Kilgallen scooped all her rivals by interviewing 
him and getting the exclusive story of his love life with Jessie. No 
one could understand how she did it, because it was well known 
that he would not even open the door to reporters. 

But, as a matter of fact, her technique was based on simple psy- 
chology. She wore a white dress, low-heeled shoes, an innocent ex- 
pression, and tried to look youthfully dumb. McMahon let her in 
at once, thinking she was one of the neighborhood children. And 
before he had a chance to throw her out she convinced him that 
he owed it to the Journal readers to tell his story. It ran in three 
copyrighted instalments and was a blistering tale. 

After the Costello trial Miss Kilgallen went from one good story 
to another. She saw Eva Coo convicted at Cooperstown, New York, 
and she turned out more words on the American Tragedy trial in 
Wilkes-Barre than any of the other correspondents there, even 
Theodore Dreiser, who sat in the press row, watching his own story 
more or less retold. Her output was 65,000 words in six days. She 
soon developed a surprising acquaintance among the gentry quick 
on the trigger. In 1934 no fewer than five men and women whose 
trials she had covered went to the chair. 

Miss Kilgallen has had a taste of the other side of newspaper work, 
too. She goes down the bay to meet the celebrities who come in 
on ships. And when the Journal gets one of its periodical series 
attacks, she devotes herself for a week or two to commercial models, 
international marriages, beautiful shop girls or whatever the whim 



Through Prison Walls 245 

of the moment happens to be. Or else she crusades. When her paper 
was exposing the marriage rackets in New Jersey in 1933 she as- 
sisted, and narrowly escaped getting rushed to the altar with Sid 
Boehm, a fellow reporter on her own paper. She has done some mad 
things for the Journal , but she drew the line at Lohengrin. 

Miss Kilgallen is not the only newspaper daughter in New York 
to follow her father’s profession. Dixie Tighe, of the flaming locks, 
who has not missed many important stories in the last ten years, has 
inherited her newspaper instincts from both sides of the house. 
Her father, Colonel Matthew F. Tighe, was dean of the White 
House correspondents for years and was nationally known for his 
scoop on the blowing up of the Maine . Her mother, Josephine 
Tighe, does special feature work in Washington today. She was one 
of the early newspaper women there, and was on the Washington 
Times when she met Colonel Tighe. One of her more spectacular 
assignments was the trial in the West Virginia hills that climaxed 
the Allen feud. She was present when the prisoner shot up the court 
room, including the judge. Dixie’s brother, Matt, is also in newspaper 
work and at one time was city editor of the Washington Herald . 
Her uncle is Charles G. Hambidge, for years a political reporter for 
the New York Times. 

Miss Tighe got her newspaper initiation on the Washington 
Herald in 1925. Her first big story was the aviation inquiry involv- 
ing Brigadier General William Mitchell. Her next move was to the 
Philadelphia News , where her city editor soon assigned her to cover 
the Hall-Mills trial single-handed, a stiff job. She appeared soon 
afterwards on the Palm Beach Post where she did interviews and got 
a taste for aviation. She flew to Havana to invite Colonel Lindbergh 
to visit Palm Beach, and was lost on the way for three hours. The 
Colonel declined to make the trip. 

When she interviewed Paul Block he offered her a job on his 
chain of papers. Soon she became a familiar figure on all the big 
stories of the day. She covered the conventions, was assigned to the 
Snook trial in Columbus and saw Mae West, Texas Guinan and 
a variety of celebrities through their court troubles. 

Arrangements were made for Miss Tighe to travel on the Graf 
Zeppelin when Lady Drummond Hay decided not to make the re- 
turn Atlantic crossing after her first flight to America. Dixie was 
taken to the hangar at Lakehurst by Grover Whalen, represent- 
ing Mayor Walker, and was on board the dirigible when Mr. Hearst 
changed his mind about letting a Block representative in on his ex- 
clusive contract. She was put off the ship, although it took two 
marines to get Dixie down to earth again. Mr. Block sent her to 
Hollywood to ease the disappointment. On her return trip she 



246 Ladies of the Tress 

visited the Block papers in the West, and for the time being became 
a stunt reporter. She went through steel mills, walked on the bottom 
of a river in a diver’s suit, shot the rapids, made a parachute jump, 
did stunt flying and explored numerous mines. 

Miss Tighe was a war correspondent during the Cuban Revolu- 
tion, flying to Havana for I.N.S. She worked on the Lindbergh kid- 
napping and was the only newspaper girl besides Evelyn Shuler, of 
the Philadelphia Ledger , to write the news lead on the Hauptmann 
trial. One day she was assigned to meet the Majestic for a ship news 
story and there she ran into C. V. R. Thompson, arriving to rep- 
resent the Beaverbrook papers in New York. Miss Tighe is now Mrs. 
Thompson and, like her husband, corresponds for the London Daily 
Express . She is also on the staff of the New York Post , a paper 
which has had a long succession of capable women reporters since 
the time of Rheta Childe Dorr— Louise T. Nicholl, who wrote ex- 
cellent verse; Clara Savage, who is now Mrs. Walter Littledale and 
edits Parents' Magazine ; Mary Lee, who was co-winner of the 
Houghton Mifflin and American Legion $25,000 prize for the best 
war novel by an American; Laura Mount, who left the paper to do 
advertising and later married Thayer Hobson; Dorothy Ducas, and 
Ruth McKenney, who is now a colleague of Miss Tighe’s. 

While she was with the Block chain of papers Miss Tighe, like 
most of her contemporaries in New York, chronicled the night club 
and speakeasy era, when the gangsters were busy and crime filled the 
front pages incessantly. There were night club raids, speakeasy 
killings, and hold-ups of staggering proportions. The crime passionel, 
on the other hand, is likely to occur in or out of season. It has little 
bearing on the current trend in social manners. In this class was the 
murder of Elizabeth Mowry by Colin Close, otherwise known as 
Colin Campbell, the torch murderer of New Jersey. 

He was an elderly man who had built up a substantial reputation 
for himself and had lived the double life so successfully that even 
his wife had been completely fooled and had believed him to be the 
perfect husband. Although convinced ultimately of his guilt, she 
still found extenuating circumstances for him. 

When the story broke, Mildred Gilman, of the Journal , was one 
of the first reporters on the job. When her competitors were out of 
earshot she persuaded Mrs. Close to let her into her apartment. She 
told her that it would be good for her husband to have the public 
know of their happy married life. She promised to protect her from 
the other reporters. 

At first her rivals did not know that Miss Gilman was inside. 
When at last they began to suspect that she had outwitted them, 



Through Prison Walls 247 

they sent in a policeman to investigate, but Mrs. Close persuaded 
him that Mildred was a nurse. Meanwhile, the unfortunate woman 
was able to get some rest. The apartment was on the ground floor 
and, therefore, was quite vulnerable. Miss Gilman stayed overnight. 
At midnight Ray Jaurez, of the Graphic , pounded on the door, 
claiming she had turned up another wife and child of the murderer. 
She demanded immediate entrance. It took some time to quiet her. 
Finally Miss Gilman telephoned for a police guard. He cleared the 
reporters off the premises and let her slip out, ostensibly to a drug 
store. Actually she rushed to the wire and filed a story. When no 
one was in sight he helped her to get back surreptitiously. He was 
staggered a day later at the court house to discover her identity. 

Meanwhile, she had collected enough material from Mrs. Close 
for a series of stories, and by the time she left, the unhappy wife 
had a lawyer who could protect her from further invasion. After- 
wards Mrs. Close worked under a pseudonym on the Journal , to 
earn enough money to keep herself and her children alive. She hated 
it, but she did not know how else to raise any money. She was a 
courageous and loyal figure but circumstances were too much 
for her. 

Miss Gilman is the author of Sob Sister , a book which gives a 
veracious picture of the life of a girl on a sensational paper. The 
incidents in it are only slightly more spectacular than some of those 
in which the author actually has participated, as well as her Journal 
colleagues— Janette Smits, Jean Vernon and Isabel Johnston. The 
first episode in the book, in fact, is based on Miss Gilman’s own 
performance on the Earle Peacox story, another torch murder. She 
climbed the back fence of his wife’s home in Westchester while 
the other reporters were all gathered in front. She marched in 
through the back door behind Earle himself. She had no idea then 
that he was the murderer. Nor had anyone else. He had not yet 
confessed and little suspicion attached to him. She thought he was 
a local reporter putting something over on her. 

She stayed in the house for twenty minutes before anyone even 
noticed her. She heard all that Earle had to say to the relatives of 
the wife he had killed and burned with gasoline. They suspected 
nothing where he was concerned, but they advised him to go to the 
White Plains court house to be questioned, since the police had been 
looking for him. He was a handsome young man, literate and seem- 
ingly well-behaved. The murder was incomprehensible to those who 
knew him best. 

Finally someone noticed Miss Gilman sitting in at the family 
councils. They asked her who she was. She said she was a friend of 
Dolly’s. Dolly was the wife Earle had murdered. She hastened to 



248 Ladies of the Press 

add that she had come to offer condolences. Each thought that the 
other had let her in. She was promptly ushered out. She was tele- 
phoning the story to her office just as Peacox was confessing the 
murder. He quickly broke down under interrogation. She was a lap 
ahead of all her competitors in rounding up a dramatic story. 

Another time Miss Gilman was asked to sit at College Point in a 
parked car with a photographer while the 3-X murders of Queens 
were on the front pages. The murderer in this case, still at large, 
had the quaint idea of writing advance letters to the Journal telling 
whom he would kill, when, and the approximate place. His par- 
ticular eccentricity was to murder men in parked cars and attack 
the girls with them, or else let them off with a lecture on morality. 

On the night he was due to commit his second murder, Miss 
Gilman’s orders were to park near the home of the girl who had 
been his first victim. She and her escort waited for hours but the 
3-X terror w r as not abroad that night. Marion Carter, another 
Journal girl, parked near the home of his last victim at the same 
time. It was a foggy night, but her only fear was that she might be 
missing the real story. 

Another time Miss Gilman was submerged thirty feet in a diving 
suit in January, near the coffer dam of the Turnpike Bridge being 
built over the Hackensack River. The idea was to record the dying 
impressions of Peter Trans, who had drowned in a diving suit a few 
days earlier in the icy waters of the Riviere dcs Outardes, near 
Montreal. This was in January, 1930. 

One of Miss Gilman’s strangest experiences was with Gladys Mae 
Parkes, the middle-aged woman who adopted two children from a 
relative and was arrested subsequently in Camden, New Jersey, for 
their deaths. One died from slapping; the other fell downstairs and 
was killed. She put them in a suitcase; then buried the little four- 
year-old girl in a cellar, and the twenty-months-old boy in the 
woods under leaves. 

She was a former cinema house pianist and cabaret performer. 
She was treated throughout her trial as a sane woman; but all the 
evidence pointed to insanity, and after she had been in jail for seven 
months, serving her sentence, she was transferred to the Trenton 
State Hospital for the Insane. 

She showed extraordinary resistance to the fierce grilling of the 
police. After three or four days of it, the reporters were worn out, 
but not the demented woman. Relays of detectives kept up the 
barrage, but she seemed made of stone. Miss Gilman was on the job 
night and day. On the fourth day she got back to her hotel at 
about 1 p.m., dead tired, and found that her husband, Robert 



Through Prison Walls 249 

Wohlforth, had been trying to get her on the telephone. Exhausted 
and slightly hysterical, she called him back. 

“Haven’t they found out anything yet?” he demanded. 

“No more than they’ve known all along, that she killed the babies, 
put their bodies in a suitcase, and buried them,” said Miss Gilman. 
“Really, I can’t stand this place much longer. It’s driving me crazy. 
I want to get home.” 

“Why don’t you leave everything and come on home?” Mr. 
Wohlforth responded. 

An hour later, after Mildred had sunk into the deep sleep of 
fatigue, there was a knock at the door and the manager appeared 
with two men. Her first thought was that Gladys had confessed 
and that some of her colleagues were protecting her, for in spite of 
the deadly competition there is an unwritten code in the newspaper 
profession to cover the absent member. 

Mildred wrapped herself in her fur coat, while her visitors planted 
themselves unceremoniously on the bed and began to question her 
roughly. 

“What did you say to your husband this evening over the phone?” 
they demanded. “Who is in with you on this? You can’t hide any- 
thing. We know what you said. Why don’t you admit you killed 
someone?” 

It dawned quickly on Miss Gilman that she herself was suspected 
of having committed a crime. She was shivering and in a state of 
collapse from fatigue. She could not find her police card. They 
would not believe that she was a reporter. They searched her be- 
longings. Finally they were persuaded to call the journal. Her iden- 
tity was established at once and they retired, much embarrassed. 

The New York telephone operator had overheard her conversa- 
tion with her husband, had telephoned to the West Thirtieth Street 
police station that she had heard Miss Gilman say something about 
putting a body in a suitcase. Two Camden detectives, less than 
bright, were immediately set on her trail. It is frequently true that 
reporters incite suspicion by the very nature of their work, when 
they overrun a town and cudgel their brains for ingenious ways of 
getting at the news. They have been known to wear disguises but 
this is not a general practice. However, on the more sensational 
papers they sometimes pose as being the chambermaid or the duch- 
ess. But usually they do it with a humorous touch that takes the 
curse off their duplicity. 

In the spring of 1929 Miss Gilman was rushed to Wilton, Con- 
necticut, when a railroad clerk named Edwin J. Melhuish poisoned 
himself after shooting Mary Yates, a senior in Norwalk High School 
and the friend of his daughter, Elaine. The crime took place on 



2 jo Ladies of the Press 

George Middlebrook’s place, Melhuish was seen driving along with 
the girl. The car zigzagged and hit a tree. A shot was heard. Then 
Melhuish got out and sat on a wall, eating an orange. Suddenly he 
fell backwards. At the same moment there was a second shot. 

When Miss Gilman arrived to cover the story, she learned that he 
had added a trifle to the annals of crime by devising a new mode of 
death. A fat book, The History of Scotland , was found in the car 
beside the dead girl. He had cut out a deep nest in the book to hold 
a revolver and a bottle of cyanide of potassium. His organs were 
filled with the poison. He had eaten it out of the orange. Either 
he had used the revolver too, or it had gone off as he fell, for he was 
shot as well as poisoned. He had been in love with Mary and had lost 
his job for inattention to his work. 

During a trip to Germany Miss Gilman did an interview with 
General Goering for Universal Service. He wore a blue velvet 
dressing gown and sat like Caesar at a massive desk, with a nine- 
months-old lioness beside him. The light from the window over his 
head suggested a Belasco setting. He answered all the questions she 
put to him on the Reichstag trial then in progress, his attitude to 
Jews, and other topical matters. 

“Germany considers her priests and her women too sacred for 
politics,” said the General to the surprised feminist from America. 

Miss Gilman is tall, blonde, with Nordic blue eyes touched with 
ice. She is an energetic, fast-moving reporter who has had more ad- 
ventures than most. She is hard-boiled at her work, but not in her 
manner. She landed on the Journal at $100 a week, although she had 
never had a day’s experience as a reporter. She was born in Chicago 
and was educated in St. Louis, Grand Rapids and at the University 
of Wisconsin. She spent six weeks writing lengthy leads in the 
School of Journalism there, a technique which she promptly aban- 
doned when she embarked on sensational journalism. She did nothing 
about being a reporter until she had written three books, Fig Leaves , 
Count Ten and Headlines. Then Howard Cushman, a fellow re- 
porter, told her that she had a natural newspaper style and that any- 
one reading Headlines would think she had worked on papers all her 
life. 

He got her a letter of recommendation from a local city editor, 
intended for the American, but she got off on the wrong floor and 
thereby became a Journal employee. Her first good assignment was 
to go down the Bay in the cutter to meet the American Shipper, 
which was bringing in the Vestris survivors. She was fired three 
months after she got her job, and during the two weeks that she 
had notice, one of the staff members took her in hand and drilled 



Through Prison Walls 251 

her so thoroughly that she was reinstated without any lapse of time. 
From then on she did assignments of the first rank. 

Almost immediately after she resigned from the Journal she 
wrote Sob Sister and followed it up with another book and maga- 
zine work. She lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Her first husband 
was James Gilman, head of the Publishers Guild. Mr. Wohlforth, 
her present husband, is the author of Tin Soldiers , a book based 
on his personal knowledge of West Point. Miss Gilman has two 
sons of her own and a third whom she has adopted. 

When the Journal wants something spectacular in the way of 
coverage, Adela Rogers St. Johns is called in. Her name is nationally 
known, both in the magazine and newspaper field. When the Haupt- 
mann trial was running its uncanny course, she sat in the press row 
turning out thousands of words for the Hearst publication. They 
were blazing words, for Miss St. Johns’ prose, like her face, smolders 
with feeling, and nowhere is she more at home than at a trial. She 
was nurtured on court-room drama— the daughter of Earl Rogers, 
famous criminal lawyer of the West who defended and cleared 
Clarence Darrow when he was indicted for jury bribery in Los 
Angeles many years ago. 

She traveled about with her father as a girl, getting liberal glimpses 
of life’s grim by-ways through his legal practice. She detested school 
and flunked consistently in mathematics. She failed to graduate from 
grammar school but went to high school. She failed to graduate from 
high school but went to college. Then she plunged headlong into 
newspaper woik. She had seen the press swarm around her father; 
she had listened to the glamour tales that invest the city room. 
While she was still in her teens Charles E. Van Loan, an intimate 
friend of her father’s, got her a job on the Los Angeles Herald . Her 
salary was $7 a week and the paper was pleased to have her, as a 
link with Earl Rogers’ office. 

Adela, fairish-haired, her eyes an intense blue-gray, her face 
singularly expressive of her highly geared emotions, batted out 
her first half-column with an instinctive sense of how to do it. She 
became irreconcilably a newspaper woman. Today she lives on 
Long Island, turns out short stories that command high prices, works 
prodigiously, sells scenarios when she feels like it, but ditched Holly- 
wood and a $2,000 a week contract to pursue the life she prefers. 
This involves turning on steam now and again for the Hearst papers, 
which she does with great aptitude. Her name is a guarantee of 
vivid, breathless writing. Her newspaper work is less calm than 
her fiction, which is compressed and highly dramatic. Her short 
stories are often taken from the raw material she encounters in news- 



252 Ladies of the Press 

paper work. In addition, her memory is stocked with a mass of 
crime data, reverberations of her father’s career. 

Miss St. Johns’ early journalism was of the personal experience 
type made popular by Nellie Bly. She can always do a clever imper- 
sonation and she is a smart mimic and actress. When she wrote a 
series of ten articles for the Los Angeles Examiner on the depression 
she startled one of her closest friends by showing up one night at her 
door, worn and bedraggled, begging for supper. Her assignment was 
to expose the charity organizations and their work for the victims 
of the depression. She had not been able to get anything to eat all 
day and had spent a night sleeping in an automobile. This was all 
absolutely real to Adela. She worked as a mother’s helper, visited 
charity organizations, soup kitchens and free meal headquarters, and 
drew devastating conclusions. For ten days she literally lived the 
life of the homeless and penniless girl trying to find work, food and 
shelter. 

Her newspaper work has taken Miss St. Johns across the country 
repeatedly. She covered the Hickman trial for the Los Angeles 
Examiner, the Obenchain trial for the Los Angeles Herald, and the 
Clara Phillips hammer slaying for the Examiner . She saw Jessie Cos- 
tello walk out of court free, and she squeezed the last bit of melo- 
drama from the Hauptmann trial. Her by-line is apt to crop up in 
any of the Hearst papers. She did life stories for the Mirror of John 
Gilbert, Barbara Hutton and Vera Stretz. She has written on the 
New Deal, marriage, divorce and the younger generation for the 
American . 

Miss St. Johns is at her most characteristic when dealing with 
the primitive emotions. She lives intensely, is a clever conversa- 
tionalist, is often profane, absorbs facts like a sponge and makes 
dramatic use of them. She is a Hollywood favorite and many of the 
stars have confided their most heartfelt secrets to her at her Malibu 
home. Her pet admirations have always been Mary Pickford, Wal- 
lace Reid and Helen Hayes. 

When Mrs. Charles A. Sabin was lining up the West Coast forces 
for repeal, Adela was one of the chief organizers and gave her effec- 
tive aid. She has been trained in the propagandist school of jour- 
nalism and knows how to boost a cause. She thinks the marriage 
and divorce laws of her native country unnecessarily stupid and has 
done a series on the marriage clause in the Constitution. 

She met her first husband soon after she entered newspaper work. 
One of her colleagues on the paper kept telling her what a swell 
guy “Ike” St. Johns was. But Ike was temporarily indisposed, hav- 
ing broken his arm going through a window on the trail of a 
story. At last she met Ike and two weeks later she married him. Her 



Through Prison Walls 253 

second husband was Dick Hyland, the Stanford half-back, but this 
marriage went up in smoke. She is now the wife of Francis T. 
O’Toole, an air line executive. She is the mother of three children. 

Miss St. Johns mulls over her stories for weeks; then sits down 
and writes them with a burst of speed. She gets up at eight o’clock 
every morning, no matter how late she has worked the night 
before. She is a vivid figure in any press section and a good crafts- 
man. She has never missed a deadline and is not easily fooled on 
news. Miss St. Johns need never do anything but fiction. However, 
a big court-room drama always draws her in, and she reports it 
with the enthusiasm of a cub on her first assignment. 



[ 254 ] 


Chapter XXI 
ON THE AIR 

W hen Martha Deane’s beguiling voice comes over the 
air in the early afternoon with a casual stream of in- 
formation for the woman in the home, all her hearers do 
not know that the person behind it is Mary Margaret McBride, as 
smart a newspaper girl as ever scaled a ship ladder before dawn to 
listen to the babblings of a visiting celebrity. Her folksy manner is a 
natural gift, for she understands the heart throbs of the less cynical 
part of the population, in spite of the fact that she went through 
the realistic newspaper school herself. 

Miss McBride has had varied journalistic training. She has chased 
royalty all over Europe and comforted East Side mothers when their 
babies have been found dead in cellars. She is also one of the more 
successful ghost writers and has functioned in this capacity for Paul 
Whiteman, Anne Morgan, Prince Christopher of Greece, David 
Sarnoff, Owen D. Young and Marion Talley, among others. 

She has been turning out copy of one sort or another ever since 
her first poem was printed in the Drover's Journal of Chicago when 
she was six years old. Her family wanted her to do this and that— 
play the piano, do charcoal drawings, recite with expression or teach 
school, but Mary Margaret had only one idea and they couldn’t 
shake it out of her. She wanted to write for the papers. 

She was bom on a prairie farm near Paris, Missouri, in the same 
county as Mark Twain. She still likes the smell of earth, honey- 
suckle and clover. Her forebears came from Virginia and Kentucky, 
which accounts for the slight Southern twist to her tongue. Her 
paternal grandfather was a substantial settler who had owned a 
white-pillared house, but it passed from the family hands when 
Mary Margaret was a little girl. She used to ride past it in the spring 
wagon and share her grandfather’s resentment over the severance. 
He was a scholar who tried to teach her Latin and Greek almost as 
soon as she could speak. It was he who first put the idea into her 
head that she must be a writer. 

Her maternal grandfather was a Baptist minister, known to every- 



On the Air 255 

one as B. Craig. He, too, set his mark on Mary Margaret’s life, for 
she used to ride with him behind a small white horse while he de- 
claimed whole chapters of the Bible for her benefit. From that time 
on she had no ambition to swing on a trapeze, dazzle Broadway or 
study art in the Latin quarter. She merely wanted to write. She read 
everything she could find about newspaper people. Her days in a 
country school were mere stepping stones along the way. 

When she was eleven she was taken over by her aunt, Mrs. 
William Woods, who founded William Woods College at Fulton, 
Missouri. She was sent to a boarding school, where she tried piano 
and gave it up, picked on the mandolin, but to no good purpose, 
and finally found in herself a gift for elocution. She became a pupil 
teacher and from that went on to the State University at Columbia, 
Missouri, determined to take a course in journalism. But her aunt 
disapproved. She was sent home and landed at her objective without 
another pause, through Tom Bodine, who was getting out a weekly 
paper at the time— the Paris Mercury— hand-set, with wide sheets. 
His editorial page was called The Scrap Bag, and he wrote it from 
beginning to end. He gave Miss McBride a place on his staff and let 
her write news. Then he took most of her items and did them over 
in his own fine style, signing her name to them. The result was that 
soon she was being quoted in the Missouri notes of the Kansas City 
Star and elsewhere. 

Her next step was to cover society for a paper in Columbia. She 
had never seen a social column done in the gossipy vein, but she 
launched her own on this plan. Often she got her social notes by the 
simple device of calling up the dairies to ask who was ordering extra 
ice cream. Then she astonished hostesses by telling them she knew 
they were having guests. It was a Southern college town, quiet and 
leisurely. Mary Margaret wandered about the streets, hatless, in- 
quiring. Residents called her into their homes as she passed— fed her 
and gave her news. She was soon doing courts as well as society. 
She called herself managing editor of the paper and no one disputed 
the point. Her pay was $10 a week and it wasn’t always forth- 
coming. But Mary Margaret’s eyes were persistently fixed on the East. 
She moved steadily in that direction until she landed in Washington 
as a folder in the United States Senate. There she typed gas bills 
and learned the costs of senators’ funerals. 

One day she received a message from Victor Morgan, of the 
Cleveland Press , offering her a job. Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, a for- 
mer classmate, had recommended her to Mr. Morgan. She started 
at $35 a week but soon traveled East again, this time to cover a 
religious convention. As she was one of the few reporters who 
stayed sober on the job, she was asked to do publicity for the Inter- 



t$ 6 Ladies of the Press 

church World movement in New York. And, as luck would hav* 
it, when this petered out Miss McBride went to work for the Mail, 
where she soon made a substantial reputation for herself. She an- 
nounced dramatically on her first day that she wanted to cover fires. 
The city desk took her at her word and sent her out on a fire. It 
was a good one and she landed smack on the front page with a by- 
line. This does not often happen with fires. 

From 1921-1924 her name appeared constantly in the Mail . She 
did interviews, spectacles, features on crime, parades, welcomes and 
cat shows. She went after celebrities abroad. The Mail never hesi- 
tated to send its women reporters to distant parts in quest of news. 
Like Zoe Beckley, she hunted royalty in Europe. Her paper had a 
weakness for crowned heads, and these were the days when the 
few remaining thrones were tottering on their bases. She found ex- 
King Manuel of Portugal raising geese at Twickenham, and the 
Princess Zita in the Basque country, somewhere near Zuloaga’s home. 
George of Greece was absorbed in mechanical marvels when she 
talked to him. Ferdinand of Bulgaria eluded her because he was 
chasing butterfl/es in Sweden when she was on his trail. 

Miss BcBride always chose her own assignments and they were 
never dull. She was under contract and made $100 a week, until 
Mr. Munsey’s chilly hand swept the paper out of existence. She was 
asked to edit the religious page of the Telegram , which had ab- 
sorbed part of the Mail staff. It was then that she decided to write 
for the magazines. Almost at once she landed in the Saturday Eve- 
ning Tost with the story of Paul Whiteman’s life. 

For the next few years she isolated herself and worked night and 
day on her protracted ghosting jobs. Then she and Helen Josephy, 
who got her newspaper training on the Globe and Mail , did a series 
of books together. It was the boom time for tourists. Miss Josephy 
went to Paris, worked on the Herald , lived in pensions, explored 
the shops, restaurants, churches, race tracks and odd corners, and 
dug up an amazing amount of useful data for the tourist, which she 
and Miss McBride put together in Paris is a Woman's Town . They 
followed this with similar books on London, Berlin and New York. 
Miss Josephy is now associated with Mademoiselle , which features 
the work of members of her craft. 

Miss McBride was widely known in her profession, even before 
she began to broadcast. Her success on the air was instantaneous. 
She continues to be a reporter when she gives her daily talks. She 
knows the value of facts, and presents them in a soft, insidious way. 

Long before she turned t;o radio, another newspaper woman, 
known to nearly every city editor in the country, was on the air. 
This was Nellie Revell, whose copy had been appearing for thirty 



On the Air 257 

years in the papers of Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and New 
York. Miss Revell got her first chance as a reporter when she was 
sixteen. Her father owned the Springfield Journal. He would not 
employ her, so she went over to the opposition and scooped the 
family paper on her first assignment. Then he relented and gave her 
a job. 

She worked for the Chicago Times and covered her first murder 
trial for the Chicago Chronicle . She was present at the coronation 
of the Czar and Queen Victoria’s funeral. She was one of the first 
women to appear at prize fights and write about them. She broke 
the inside story of a series of fur robberies in Chicago. 

Four generations of newspaper people preceded her on one side 
of the family tree and five generations of show people on the other. 
In the end she followed both careers. When she went to see a small 
circus at Morris, Illinois, she was so carried away with enthusiasm 
that she threw up her newspaper job and went in for circus ex- 
ploitation. This was the beginning of a long and spectacular career 
in press agentry. Like Dexter Fellows, whose annual appearance is 
hailed with real warmth by the leading city editors of the country, 
Miss Revell became the herald of the big tent show. When she first 
joined the circus she used to watch a youth who sold lemonade, 
danced, sang, acted and made himself generally useful. His name was 
Fred Stone. 

Within a few years she was press agenting six circuses, and as her 
career ripened, she did publicity for Mrs. Patrick Campbell, A 1 
Jolson, Frank Tinney, Lily Langtry, Norah Bayes, Lillian Russell, 
Elsie Janis, Eva Tanguay, Will Rogers and scores of others. But 
in 1919, when her professional reputation was at its height, she 
had an accident and her spine was fractured. For years afterwards 
she lay in a plaster cast in a hospital. Her doctors thought she 
would never get up again. Actors and writers flocked to her bedside. 
When it was learned that she was penniless her theatrical friends 
gave her a testimonial dinner. Her book, Right off the Chest , written 
while she was flat on her back, was Nellie Revell in profile. 

Soon she began to get about in a wheel chair. Her indomitable will 
had conquered her invalidism. Then she went on the air. Her for- 
tunes rose again. Miss Revell is a pet of the show world. She is dy- 
namic, spirited, full of good stories. She knows the lingo of the 
tanbark, can put it across when she is in the mood, and is one of 
the town’s characters. 

A newspaper woman of a different type, whose work also was 
closely allied to the theater, was Theodora Bean, who died in 1926. 
She was handsome, imperious, and abhorred sentiment. She had 



258 Ladies of the Press 

executive qualities that made her as good in an editorial post as on 
the street— a rare combination in the woman reporter. 

She was a Minnesota girl who left Carleton College at nineteen 
years of age to seek a newspaper job in Chicago. Charles H. Davis, 
of the Chicago Daily News , gave her her first assignment. It was 
to write an advance on a society bicycle race. Her story made the 
front page and was illustrated by John T. McCutcheon. Her style 
was so adroit and original that she was taken on the staff at once. 
She did club news, worked in the sports department, took general 
assignments and was coached in rewrite by George Ade, a member 
of the staff at the time. 

When Carrie Nation descended on Chicago, determined to clean 
up the saloons, Miss Bean was assigned to interview her. She pulled 
a fast trick on her rivals by persuading Carrie to spend the night 
at a Turkish bath. Naturally no one could find her and Miss Bean 
scored with an exclusive interview. 

After free-lancing from Europe for a time Miss Bean joined the 
staff of the New York Telegraph as a feature writer. All her work 
had a witty, sophisticated touch. Her interviews were penetrating. 
Even her news stories had an amusing turn. She attracted the at- 
tention of James Gordon Bennett with the pieces she did on the 
gatherings of suffragists at the Newport home of Mrs. O. H. P. 
Belmont, and he asked her to write for him. 

After a third trip to Europe Miss Bean returned to the Telegraph 
as Sunday editor. The old bam-like building was a friendly spot 
after the theater. The Sunday section of the paper was large and 
sprawling. It involved a great deal of careful management. Miss 
Bean was well equipped to cope with the technical problems. She 
had decision and firmness of character, and a masculine outlook on 
her work. She could manage printers, handle make-up and see that 
everyone did his job. Louella Parsons worked for her during this 
period and was one of her close friends. 

Miss Bean had a keen sense of fun and knew how to ridicule the 
mealy-mouthed; she could never stand bores or stupid people. But 
she was intensely loyal to her friends and to her profession. She 
followed the advances made by newspaper women during her time 
with an appreciative eye. Her own characteristics were distinctive. 
She smoked cigars, carried a walking stick and had a passion for de- 
tective stories. She was a familiar figure at first nights, and in her 
spare moments went in for painting furniture. Cooking was one of 
her hobbies. She could plank a steak like a chef. She detested cats, 
liked dogs and always predicted that eventually she would retire to 
the country and breed them. 

But she was still pursuing her profession when she died. She re- 



On the Air 259 

signed from the Telegraph in 1924 and founded the T-Bean syndi- 
cate which she ran for two years. Her strong personality was missed 
from the newspaper scene, for she had rare qualities that made her 
a memorable figure in journalism. 

Another newspaper woman whose work was closely interlocked 
with the theater was the gifted Ruth Hale, reporter, critic and ardent 
feminist. She was the wife of Heywood Broun and the founder of 
the Lucy Stone League. A native of Tennessee, she attended Hollins 
Institute, and studied painting and sculpture at the Drexel Academy 
of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. At eighteen she was working for the 
Hearst bureau in Washington, one of her earliest stories being her 
account of the marriage of Alice Roosevelt to Nicholas Longworth. 

For a time Miss Hale was dramatic critic of the Philadelphia 
Ledger and she was one of the first women in the country to cover 
sports. During 1915 and 1916 she wrote for the Sunday edition of 
the New York Times . Then she went into magazine and press 
theatrical work. It was during this period that she met and married 
Mr. Broun. When he was sent to France as a war correspondent she 
went with him and worked on the Paris edition of the Chicago 
Tribune . 

Miss Hale was essentially the intellectual type of reporter. Her 
interests lay much deeper than the superficial turn of event. She 
took up causes with the intensity of a crusader and backed anything 
that involved woman’s rights. She put up a successful fight on the 
passport issue and was the first woman to go abroad under her 
maiden name. Like Mr. Broun, she was vocal on the Sacco- Vanzetti 
case and always lent her support to the liberal and humanitarian 
cause. She was the daughter of Annie Riley Hale, who sought the 
Democratic Senatorial nomination in California in 1932. She had one 
son, Heywood 3d. 

Back in 1909 Anna Marble sat in a busy little office in the Hippo- 
drome building day after day, directing a spectacular publicity cam- 
paign. Before then she had worked for the Brooklyn Eagle and the 
New York Telegram . She left newspaper work to press agent 
Floradora . Subsequently she was business manager for Elsie de 
Wolfe, Nazimova and other stage celebrities. She knew the theater 
from all angles and wrote one-act plays, stories, verse and fairy tales. 
Anna Marble is now Mrs. Channing Pollock and the mother of an 
excellent newspaper man, Warren Irvin. 

Marian Spitzer is another of the newspaper women to link her 
fortunes with the theater and cinema industry. Handsome, talented 
and enterprising, Miss Spitzer worked effectively for the Brooklyn 
Times and the New York Globe , then did theatrical press work and 
went on to Hollywood, where she is now an assistant producer for 



2<So 


Ladies of the Press 

Paramount. She writes for the leading magazines, has a novel to 
her credit, is the mother of a small son and the wife of Harlan 
Thompson, the playwright. 

Nearly a quarter of a century ago Dorothy Richardson, who is 
now with Paramount, was a star on the Herald. She employed Ann 
Grosvenor Ayres to do a questions and answers column. Miss Ayres 
was soon assigned to full-page Sunday features on Broadway figures, 
and from this she went on to theatrical press work and producing. 
Newspaper work for women is apt to lead in any direction— but 
most often toward publicity or creative writing. 



[26l] 


Chapter XXII 

ENTER THE TABLOIDS 


I n June, 1920, four months after her arrival in New York 
from Tennessee, Julia Harpman went to the doorstep of Joseph 
Bowne Elwell, the bridge expert who had been found dead that 
morning in his house in West Seventieth Street, a block away from 
where she lived. 

There she bumped into a tall young man who turned out to 
be Westbrook Pegler. He was not then the famous columnist that 
he is today, but he was the same able reporter. Newspaper ro- 
mances flourish in odd spots. Several great murder cases have ended 
in newspaper marriages. Julia and Peg, as they are best known to 
their colleagues, are a notable case in point. 

At the moment of their meeting nothing was further from their 
thoughts. They were both intent on rounding up the details of a 
startling new crime. They had the impersonal approach of two good 
reporters out on a big assignment. They were experienced enough to 
know that the Elwell murder had the quality that keeps a crime on 
the front pages week after week, while the public debates it endlessly 
from a thousand different angles. They did not yet know that it was 
to become one of the baffling mysteries of the era. 

It had a liberal assortment of provocative elements— intrigue, 
wealth and beautiful women; gamblers, bootleggers, wronged hus- 
bands and race track touts; a dancer, a manicurist, a countess, an 
Egyptian princess, a South American publisher. And for the central 
figure the mysterious Elwell, found dead as he sat in a chair, bare- 
footed, blood flowing from a hole in the middle of his forehead. 

For weeks Miss Harpman wrung the last bit of drama from this 
story for her paper. To this day she and Westbrook Pegler debate 
the possible solution over the fireside of their Bavarian home in 
Connecticut. It is only one of many murders, solved and unsolved, 
which haunt Julia’s memory from her newspaper days The interest 
of a reporter in the solution of a crime is intense, by the very nature 
of her work. After she has devoted herself to it night and day for 
weeks and months, followed up futile clues that seemed at the 



262 Ladies of the Press 

moment to point to a solution, talked to suspects, and come to know 
at first hand the weird human parade that gets the spotlight with 
every major crime, she would be curiously indifferent to her job 
if she failed to take a scientific interest in any sequel that fate may 

Miss Harpman covered crime with such thoroughness and skill 
that she left her competitors trailing far behind. She pioneered in 
the tabloid field in this country. The New York Daily News was 
launched on June 26, 1919, and eight months later she joined the 
staff. This was a significant step in the history of women in Ameri- 
can journalism. It gave them a new place in the city room. It pro- 
vided more jobs. In June, 1924, Mr. Hearst started the Daily Mirror. 
Three months later Bernarr Macfadden flooded the newsstands with 
the Evening Graphic, which far outdid its rivals in monstrosities of 
make-up, composite pictures and sensationalism. 

The whole idea was experimental. The tabloids could not com- 
pete with the established papers on their own ground. They had to 
astonish, bemuse, dazzle or horrify the reader. Their editors did 
handsprings to startle the town. Their reporters had to follow suit. 
A group of clever girls adopted the new technique with success. 
Miss Harpman led the procession. By the end of 1925 the approxi- 
mate circulation of the three tabloids was 1,350,000. The Graphic 
was unsound and it failed. It made the cardinal newspaper error of 
ignoring truth. But the News and the Mirror flourished and the 
tabloid idea spread. 

There was a heavy crop of sensational murder cases in the early 
twenties. Miss Harpman took them all in. Her paper played these 
stories hard; then dropped them overnight and went on to the next, 
when another beautiful woman shot another dastardly man in some 
remote comer of New Jersey. One winter night she slept in a filthy 
shack while a man suspected of a famous murder stirred restlessly in 
the next room. On another occasion she trudged eight miles through 
snow above her knees to get the story of a woman who had been 
thrown into jail as a spy. She watched a murdered man’s body being 
grappled out of a quicksand swamp and the bones of a baby being 
scraped from forest soil eight years after his disappearance. She saw 
men convicted and women faint with joy over their acquittal on 
charges of murder. She accompanied Gertrude Ederle in her swim 
across the Channel, egging her on from a launch. She crashed a thou- 
sand feet into the ocean at dusk in a crippled seaplane on her way to 
cover an assignment. She was threatened with death repeatedly. She 
talked to gangsters in their haunts and listened to the ravings of their 
molls. 

Miss Harpman was broken in to tabloid journalism by Philip A. 




Enter the Tabloids i6y 

Payne, as distinct a personality in his way as Charles E. Chapin or 
Walter Howey, both of whom justly earned the title of being 
hard-boiled city editors— one in a ruthless manner, the other with a 
more whimsical touch. Miss Harpman liked the extraordinary Payne, 
as did most of the reporters who worked for him. He was half deaf 
and near sighted. He had bristly, untidy hair which matched his mad 
ideas. He had been a preliminary boy in a cheap fight club earning 
$8 a week as a minor league reporter before invading Park Row. 
He lacked any literary instincts but he did know news. And his ideas 
brought quick returns in circulation— first for the News , then the 
Mirror . He died as spectacularly as he had lived— trying to fly the 
Atlantic in Old Glory. 

Mr. Payne gave the girl reporters a heavy play. He believed in 
their work. He spurred them on to daring feats. He was a hard 
driver— sincere, quick-tempered, inconsistent. He was quick to spot 
a good story and he whipped his reporters into pursuing every clue 
to a dead end. This was excellent training, if somewhat hard on the 
staff. He would have been staggered had any of his girls dared to 
say she would not gladly go out and die for the News . Miss Harp- 
man worked for him night and day. She moved from place to place 
without much sleep or time for meals. She froze and got soaked to 
the skin and survived feats of endurance that seem incredible in 
retrospect. 

She grew familiar with the pitcher and bowl existence of the 
traveling salesman, for it is a newspaper platitude that the great 
crimes take place in the most obscure spots. The result is that the 
importunate press must commandeer the local inn and rent all the 
available houses in the district. Lunch counters mushroom over- 
night; taxis fill the town; a premium is put on telephones when this 
lunatic invasion hits the town, turning it upside down, putting it on 
the front page, disturbing the somnolent peace of Main Street. 

Miss Harpman was not a newspaper novice when she started out 
on her first murder in New York. For two years she had been 
covering courts in Knoxville, Tennessee. But she knew nothing of 
tabloid journalism. Her entire fortune consisted of a bundle of 
newspaper clippings, a borrowed squirrel coat, $63 in cash and a 
letter from Bishop Thomas F. Gailor of Tennessee. She got to town 
on the day that the Sun and Herald were combined, an inauspicious 
time to seek a job. The second city editor who turned her down 
suggested that there might be something for her on the new tabloid. 
It was then known as The Illustrated News and was published in the 
grimy old building occupied by the Mail. 

‘Til give you a trial assignment-not a job,” said Mr. Payne. “Take 
a run up to the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue and see 



264 Ladies of the Press 

what the vestrymen decided at their secret session this afternoon. 
There’s been a fight between Dr. Percy Stickney Grant, the rector, 
and Bishop Manning. The vestrymen are meeting today to see 
whether they will stick with Grant or split the church. You find 
out what they did.” 

This was a stiff assignment for a reporter new to the city. The 
diocese was in a turmoil over Dr. Grant’s defiance of the Bishop. 
He had threatened to deny the Virgin Birth, then had sidestepped 
the issue. Underlying was the bad feeling over the Bishop’s refusal 
to let him marry Mrs. Rita de Acosta Lydig and still retain his 
parish. 

When Miss Harpman asked for Dr. Grant at the rectory, a butler 
slammed the door in her face. This wasn’t much of a blow. Butlers 
and reporters are sworn enemies. The custodians of the door are 
invariably more rude to the press than their masters. Next Miss Harp- 
man went into the dimly lit hallway of the silent vestry house. She 
went upstairs and on the top floor discovered a singular figure like a 
gnome, cutting out choir vestments. He held his scissors in mid-air 
when he saw her. 

“What do you want?” he demanded. 

“I want to know what’s going on at that meeting,” said Miss 
Harpman authoritatively. 

“You won’t tell who told you,” he cautioned her, “but I heard 
the vestrymen vote to support Dr. Grant. And there’s some kind of 
Bolshevik meeting going on now on the second floor. Go in and sit 
down as if you belonged theie and you can find out what it is all 
about.” 

Miss Harpman discovered an assorted group listening to a speaker 
with wild red hair. He was advocating the abolition of the Supreme 
Court and the abrogation of the Senate. His face seemed familiar. 

“Isn’t that ex-Governor Sulzer speaking?” she asked the woman 
sitting next to her. 

“Certainly, that’s the Governor,” she was told. 

Miss Harpman left the hall quietly. She got hold of one of the 
vestrymen and confirmed the tailor’s tip that the church was sup- 
porting Dr. Grant against the Bishop. She went back to her office. 

“Did you get the story?” Mr. Payne asked. 

“I did, and also another.” 

Miss Harpman told him what she had. 

“You’ve got a job,” said Mr. Payne, who had not really expected 
any success, for he had sent out two other reporters who had failed 
to get the Grant story. Every move was being kept secret from the 
press. Next day the News appeared on the street with this and the 



Enter the Tabloids 2 65 

story of the ousted Governor’s insurrectionary words under an 
Episcopalian church roof. 

Mr. Payne was never to regret his decision to take Miss Harpman 
on the staff. She proved to be one of the finest reporters, men or 
women, that New York has produced. She soon had the star men 
on the most conservative papers trying to keep up with her. She 
had a great gift for nosing out unexpected facts and was an inde- 
fatigable worker. Her record on the Halls-Mills case was impressive. 
She was one of the first reporters on the scene after the rector and 
choir singer were found dead under the crab apple tree in New 
Jersey. From that point on she was a step ahead of everyone else 
in rounding up the witnesses in the case. Sometimes she reached them 
before the police. Like the other reporters working on the early in- 
vestigation, she was well aware of the muddle-headed operations of 
the rival prosecutors who were supposedly trying to solve the case. 
She and Boy den Sparkes, of the Tribune , badgered them relentlessly, 
and forced them to some sort of activity when they seemed to be 
going to sleep at the switch. 

Night and day she motored about the country, rounding up peo- 
ple whose lives had been oddly threaded in with the crime, finding 
gravediggers and village gossips, seamstresses and farmers who heard 
shots, habitues of de Russey’s Lane and firemen friends of Willie 
Stevens. She was the first person to get a coherent story out of Mrs. 
Jane Gibson, the pig woman who accused Mrs. Hall. When Miss 
Harpman called on this fantastic creature in her shack in the coun- 
try, she was greeted with a shotgun. 

“Get off my land, you so-and-so,” Mrs. Gibson yelled at her. 

The dogs were turned loose. The rifle was brandished danger- 
ously. Julia held her ground. She has a gentle, persuasive manner. 
In time she got around Mrs. Gibson, although it took persistence to 
wear down her hostility. 

In one of the great murder cases of the period, still unsolved, 
Mr. Payne was convinced that the person least under suspicion had 
committed the crime. As an amateur ball-player Mr. Payne fancied 
the terminology of the diamond. 

“Let’s pitch to this guy’s weakness, if he has one,” he told Miss 
Harpman. 

She happened to know that the man in question was interested in 
spiritualism. So Mr. Payne decided that he would frighten him into 
confession at a seance. He had the art department prepare a letter- 
head designed for a mythical Madame Astra. It had hoot-owls, 
cobras, bats, black tomcats and toads surrounding a line-drawing of 
a veiled brunette with curtain rings in her ears. 

Bemadine Szold, an exotic-looking girl reporter then working on 



266 Ladies of the Press 

the News, was assigned to go the rounds of the New York mystics 
to pick up atmosphere. She was to be Madame Astra. Bemadine 
might have been born for the role. She went to Cain’s warehouse, 
where the scenery of Broadway’s forgotten shows is stored, and 
dug out a black velvet backdrop that had been used in the Follies , 
a plaster pedestal with a green snake coiled around the column, a 
large brass Buddha and a mock throne. She borrowed a crystal ball 
from an optician, and a scene-shifter set up the magic props in her 
apartment. 

Madame Astra then wrote to the suspect, saying that her spirit 
control had news for him. The day after the letter arrived, Miss 
Harpman talked to him in his kitchen. He was used to hourly in- 
vasions by the press and it was quite natural for him to chat about 
the letters he received. He was an odd character— seemingly as 
simple as a child; actually very cunning. He asked Miss Harpman’s 
advice about the letter from the seeress. 

“Well,” she said, “I don’t believe in spirits, but if you do, I don’t 
want to advise you against seeing this woman. But watch out for 
a trick.” 

“I was afraid of that,” he said. “I won’t go unless you go with me.” 

So they went together to Madame Astra’s. They were welcomed 
at the door by a swarthy young man masquerading as a snake- 
charmer. 

“You stay out,” he told Miss Harpman. “The gentleman must 
come in alone to see Madame.” 

Behind the velvet curtain sat two stenographers, the prosecutor, 
two detectives and Mr. Payne. Every effort was made to crack the 
seemingly feeble mentality of the victim. All sorts of abracadabra 
was sprung on him. The legend on Park Row at the time was that 
his wife’s ghost appeared with clanking chains but failed to make 
him turn a hair. Bemadine tried to break him down by subtle and 
obvious methods. She evoked strange images from the crystal. She 
recalled the looks and gestures of his wife. But the suspect rambled 
along in his characteristic vein and showed no signs of alarm. 

By .this time he was used to all sorts of inquisitions. For weeks 
some of the toughest tykes and brightest wits of the newspaper 
profession had been badgering him unmercifully in his kitchen and 
his invariable reaction had been to lift the stove-lid with its holder 
and spit thoughtfully into the flames. They were just as unsuccess- 
ful as the police. 

So the seance was a flop. The suspect didn’t confess. He didn’t 
even bat an eyelash. He was never charged with the crime. 

Shortly before Gerald Chapman, the bandit who was shockingly 
over-touted in the Robin Hood role, was due to hang at Wethers- 



Enter the Tabloids 267 

field Prison in Connecticut, Miss Harpman was conducted to a 
curious hideaway in Newark to meet an Italian gambler who thought 
she was a friend of the bank robber and murderer. She found her 
host playing a Sunday School organ. He welcomed her and remi- 
nisced for two hours on the days when Chapman posed in New York 
as the English owner of oil wells in Oklahoma and frequented his 
gambling house in the West Nineties. At that time there was a re- 
ward of $100,000, alive or dead, on his head. Dutch Anderson was 
always with him, passing as his secretary. 

The Italian told Miss Harpman that the police had had both men 
in their hands one night while every station house in the country 
was placarded with their pictures, and had let them get away. They 
were in his gambling house at the time. A raid was pulled. A woman 
gave the tip. She stood at an open window, fanning herself with a 
handkerchief. This was the signal for the detectives to rush the place. 
Chapman sat down hurriedly on a couch and stuffed a pistol under 
a cushion. Then he thrust a roll of money into a detective’s hand 
and slipped away. Anderson was taken into custody but was not 
identified. 

“Chapman,” said the Italian, “had the nerve to drive down to West 
Side Court in a limousine behind a chauffeur next morning and wait 
for Anderson and me to get through with our hearing. When we 
were released he drove us away. Dutch posed for a picture in court 
but even when it was printed, nobody recognized it.” 

Miss Harpman looked up the picture in her paper and found that 
the Italian was telling her the truth. It was unmistakably Dutch’s 
somber countenance that had appeared in connection with a cheap 
shake-down complaint. On the day that Chapman went coolly to the 
chair, the News circulation went up by 110,000. Only a world 
championship fight boosts the circulation of a tabloid more than an 
execution. The picture of Ruth Snyder, snapped by stealth while she 
was dying in the electric chair, augmented the press run by 120,000 
copies. The Sacco- Vanzetti execution sold 185,000 extra copies. The 
subway disaster at Times Square in 1928 resulted in additional sales 
of 180,000 papers. Major prize fights usually run the circulation up 
by at least 100,000 copies. The Tunney-Dempsey fight in Philadel- 
phia touched the top with the sale of 240,000 extra copies. The 
Dempsey-Sharkey fight ran to 200,000; the Sharkey-Schmeling bout 
to 193,000. The Tunney-Heeney fight sold 187,000 extra copies of 
the News. Election returns also bring phenomenal jumps in circula- 
tion. But spectacular crime is a sure and sustained circulation builder 
in the tabloid field. 

Miss Harpman wrote vivid pieces about the murder of Dot King, 
who was found dead in her apartment in the spring of 1923, chloro- 



268 Ladies of the Press 

formed, and with tape around her mouth. This was the “Broadway 
Butterfly” crime that involved a well-known banker and enriched 
the new tabloid vocabulary. About this time the succinct termi- 
nology of the tabs began to gain ground and get into general cur- 
rency— love nests, gin mills, torch murders, cry-baby bandits, 
bobbed-hair bandits, sugar daddies, on the spot, trigger men, croon- 
ers, gang slayings, muscling in, death pacts, heart balm, wonder girl, 
dream babies, tiger woman, and torso murders. The blondes were 
always svelte; the brunettes were vivacious. Each new crime 
launched its own phrase. 

After Dot King’s death a murder of almost identical characteristics 
repeated the Broadway butterfly theme, and again Miss Harpman 
chronicled it with all the graphic touches of the full-blown tabloid 
story. This time the victim was Louise Lawson, a music student from 
Texas who was found smothered to death in her apartment. Neither 
crime has yet been solved. 

Miss Harpman was on the job a few minutes after her city editor 
received the dramatic bulletin that there had been an explosion in 
Wall Street. This was in the autumn of 1920. She was in time to 
witness the first confusion, before anyone knew what had happened. 
She covered the Ku Klux forays in Georgia and the last of Harry 
K. Thaw’s sanity hearings in Philadelphia. She went to prize fights 
and World Series games. It was while she was flying to Atlantic 
City to do a feature on Luis Firpo training for his fight with 
Dempsey that she fell a thousand feet into the ocean and miracu- 
lously survived. She had just returned from a mountain hamlet, 
where she had been covering a murder, when Morrow Krum offered 
to fly her down the Jersey Coast to Atlantic City. 

When they were over Sandy Hook, engine trouble developed. 
The airplane made straight for the sea. Mr. Krum kept his head, 
tried to right the plane, and at the same time reached over and 
batted Miss Harpman severely on the neck to get her head into the 
lee of the windshield. Next minute they struck the water violently. 
The* sea roared into the cockpit. Miss Harpman thought she was 
dead, but strangely enough she wasn’t. She and Morrow Krum 
poked out their heads simultaneously. They didn’t feel like laughing. 
No land was visible. Half a mile to seaward they spotted a tug with 
a lumber barge in tow. It was dusk and they did not have flares or 
signal lamps. The pilot stepped out on the bow, waved his arms and 
shouted for help. All sounds were lost in the wind. 

But they had been spotted. The tug hove toward them, although 
the barge resisted stubbonily. At last their rescuers were close 
enough to form a lee and give the airplane a chance to steady a 



Enter the Tabloids 269 

trifle. Sixteen sailors stood by while Miss Harpman clambered out 
on the wing of the plane. A rope was passed. The plane rose on a 
swell and she jumped for the tug. 

At the critical moment, she turned to look for her companion. 
There was a shout of warning. Two sailors grabbed her by the 
arms. Another caught her by the ankles and swung her up in the air 
in time to escape the lash of a tow-line that had suddenly pulled 
taut as the tug rode the waves. One sailor was tossed into the sea but 
when the hav/ser slackened he caught it and climbed back to safety. 
Morrow Krum stuck to his airplane and it was put in tow astern the 
barge. They all set out for Brooklyn, but ten minutes later the 
hawser snapped and the barge and seaplane went adrift. By the time 
they were taken into tow again, the unhappy pilot was glad enough 
to board the barge. 

On August 6, 1926, Trudy Ederle swam the English Channel 
in 14 hours and 31 minutes, setting a record. Miss Harpman accom- 
panied her in a launch on her historic marathon from Gris Nez to 
Kingsdowm It was an exciting day in the life of a reporter. The 
Chicago Tribune and the News had bought the exclusive rights to 
the girl’s own story of her training, and the big day itself. Miss 
Harpman had gone abroad with her and knew all Trudy’s emotions 
before, during and after the swim. She was thoroughly sympathetic 
to the unsophisticated girl who was deluged with fabulous offers 
after swimming the Channel, then was soon forgotten. 

Her welcome home was second only to Lindbergh’s. Miss Harp- 
man followed her every step of the way. It was one of the old gala 
days of ticker tape and delirious crowds downtown, while James J. 
Walker was still riding high, the speakeasy flourished, the depres- 
sion had not set in, and citizens liked to line the streets and cheer for 
an incoming celebrity. But Trudy’s day passed swiftly. She flashed 
through the news columns, made the headlines, tasted the heady 
wine of extravagant publicity; then went out of sight with the 
speed of an expiring rocket. 

This was one of the last important stories that Miss Harpman cov- 
ered. She retired to live in the country. Her health was not good. 
She had rounded out a remarkable newspaper career. She is still 
cited on Park Row as the ideal woman reporter. All the men and 
women with whom she worked admired her. They called her gentle 
Julia. She was that paradoxical creature— the feminine reporter with 
the masculine touch on news. She had great driving force behind 
a mellow manner. She could translate deeds of violence into vivid 
prose, and write withering copy. She faced danger many times in 
the course of her work, and for a long period was desperately ill. 
The assignment that took her to ElwelPs door was one of the lucky 



270 Ladies of the Press 

moments of her life. Her newspaper marriage has been singularly 
happy. She travels far and wide now with Peg. She is still a party 
to many of the news stories of the day. But she can watch them 
as a spectator. She no longer has to worry about deadlines, beats 
or the lead story for page three. 

She was followed on the News by Grace Robinson, who is always 
to be found in the front row at any great murder trial, rubbing el- 
bows with Damon Runyon, and pushing a pencil with speed and 
competence. She is small, slim, frail in build but tenacious of pur- 
pose, sturdy of will. Grace is so reserved that she is a mystery even 
to her closest colleagues, who uniformly admire her. Her record 
of big stories is one that any man might envy. Sometimes her copy 
seems astonishingly sharp, coming from so mild a person. She does 
not euphemize, and knows to a dot how far a tabloid can go and 
still not incur a libel suit. She is calm in the middle of a hysterical 
scene. She responds to good court-room drama like any born re- 
porter, but one never would suspect it. Her tilted eyes conceal their 
awareness. Her manner is restrained. She has been in plenty of tight 
spots but rarely talks about her experiences. She has been jailed on 
one or two occasions in the pursuit of news. 

Miss Robinson knows, as few women reporters do, what it means 
day after day to have the lead play on the big news story of the day. 
But in her spare time she flees to a two-hundred-year-old house in 
Weston, Connecticut, where she has her meals on a terrace, sur- 
rounded by bird houses and flowers. There she indulges in quiet con- 
templation away from the fever of her work. She can cook as well 
as she can turn out a pyrotechnic picture of the criminal world. Of 
such contradictory elements is the good newspaper woman made. 

Jack Diamond sent for Miss Robinson when he was on trial in 
Federal Court on a liquor charge. He had read some earlier stories 
she had written about him. Then, when he saw that she was covering 
the federal trial, he sent a message by an indirect route that he 
would like to be interviewed by her. 

“Don’t let anyone know who I am, for I will be thrown out,” he 
warned her. “Come to this hotel and ask for Mr. Jones.” 

Miss Robinson went to a well-known commercial hotel in mid- 
town New York. She found him looking ill and nervous. He pre- 
sented his bodyguards to her, mumbling the names of the strange 
assortment of thugs who filled the small hotel room. They were all 
deferential to her. Diamond ordered them out of the room. Then his 
wife, Alice, came in. She fussed about, rouging her cheeks and doing 
her hair. 

“Go on up to the roof where it’s cool, honey,” he suggested. And 
she went. 



Enter the Tabloids 271 

Miss Robinson was now left alone with him. He locked the door 
and took careful observations out of the one window. He seemed 
to be in constant fear. The waiter came. Supper was served. They 
ate and drank. He was anxious to propitiate Grace. He held up a 
copy of her paper. It carried a banner line about him. 

“See,” he said indignantly. “These jurors walking through the 
lobby see just that. I want you to know that I’m not a bad fellow.” 

“Mr. Diamond, you say you are not a gangster,” said Miss Rob- 
inson boldly. “Just what do you do for a living?” 

“Well, that’s a little difficult to explain,” said Diamond evasively. 
“I can’t describe how I make my living. I couldn’t now, anyway, be- 
cause I’m afraid the government is going to investigate income 
taxes.” 

Miss Robinson could get nothing out of him. So she fell back on 
the stock tintype questions— what size shoes he wore, what food he 
preferred, what he read, how he passed the time. Jack worked hard 
to make a good impression on her. He fancied himself as a smart 
and scholarly fellow. He was far from being either. The interview 
made an entertaining Sunday story. 

In 1932 Captain Patterson, who is deeply interested in motion pic- 
tures, assigned Miss Robinson to accompany Greta Garbo to Sweden. 
She got visas for a number of European countries, not knowing 
where the star might get off. She boarded the Gripsholm quietly. 
Her cue was to travel as a passenger until she got access to the pub- 
licity-shy Garbo. But she was soon detected as a reporter. The secret 
code that had been worked out in the News office was transparent to 
the wireless operators. They told her to save herself the trouble of 
translating her messages into symbolism. She had been working la- 
boriously in her stateroom from a large chart. 

The Captain conspired to protect the hallowed Garbo. A special 
stewardess was assigned to guard her. Miss Robinson deluged her 
with notes, all of which were returned unread. Her deck chair was 
moved from the top deck so that Garbo could play games undis- 
turbed. If she saw Miss Robinson approaching, she ran like mad, 
leaving the game flat. She appeared in the dining-room only three 
times and refused to meet any of the passengers except three or four 
who sat at the Captain’s table. Finally Miss Robinson sent her a let- 
ter through the post office, believing that no one would dare to inter- 
fere with the mails. On the night before they were due to land in 
Gothenburg, she found the star’s door unguarded for a moment and 
knocked on it. She heard the famous throaty gurgle: “Who is it?” 

“It’s Miss Robinson, the reporter,” said Grace, somewhat des- 
perate by now. “I’m very anxious to interview you. Did you get my 
message?” 



iji Ladies of the Tress 

“Tomorrow morning at ten o’clock in the smoking room,” 
Garbo announced in the dramatic tones that have thrilled movie fans 
from Alaska to Timbuctoo. 

Next morning Miss Robinson faced her, bitter over her treat- 
ment. By now the Swedish reporters were swarming on board. 

“Oh-h-h. ... It was you who ruined my night,” said Garbo 
reproachfully. “I wasn’t able to get back to sleep.” 

She had taken a sleeping draught to prepare herself for meeting 
the reporters, it developed. Miss Robinson came to the conclusion 
that she was genuinely timid and thought a newspaper interview an 
ordeal. 

After this trying experience Grace went to Finland and Russia, 
then to Berlin, where she got a cablegram from Frank Hause, of the 
News, saying that Mayor Walker was about to sail from Italy and 
that she was to accompany him home. He wanted to get back ir 
time for the Democratic rally at which a mayor was to be nomi- 
nated. Miss Robinson boarded the Rex, but the ship, which was on 
its maiden trip, broke down at Gibraltar. The Mayor was burned up 
with impatience and decided to get off. She had spent all her money 
and she couldn’t use the radio while the ship was in port. It was a 
tight spot for her to be in. The Italian Line refused to cash a check 
for her. It was a week-end, so that she knew she could not raise any 
money on shore. There was only one train a day to Paris. The plane 
from Africa to Paris had been discontinued a few days before. 

She saw Mr. Walker saunter off the ship. She would have asked 
him for money but her paper had attacked him consistently, and 
she knew that it would not be the thing to do. She had the desperate 
feeling that the reporter gets when circumstances seem hopelessly 
against him, coupled with the compelling instinct not to let the 
paper down. At last some money came through from her office with 
the order: “Must follow Walker.” It wasn’t nearly enough, but it 
would take her to Paris. The Mayor was already on his way north in 
an express. Some of her competitors were with him. It was Sunday. 
At the very best, by catching the next train out of Algeciras, she 
would arrive in Paris only forty minutes before the boat train left for 
Cherbourg, assuming that her train was on time. 

Miss Robinson traveled north through Spain and France, sweating 
with anxiety all the way. She had eight pieces of luggage, which 
added to her embarrassment. They contained Swedish glass and 
pewter, Spanish shawls, several bottles of vodka which she was de- 
termined to get through, glasses from Russia with the Czar’s coat 
of arms, as well as several cameras. The customs officials regarded 
her with suspicion. 

She had telegraphed to the Chicago Tribune office in Paris, ex- 



Enter the Tabloids 173 

plaining her plight. Her colleagues scrambled about and collected 
all the francs they could obtain on a Sunday, but still the sum was 
not enough. Miss Robinson’s train was on time. She joyfully hailed 
her rescuer, rushed to the steamship office with her francs but was 
told it was too late to buy a ticket there. She got to the station just 
as the boat train was about to pull out. The Mayor was having last- 
minute flashlights taken. Although he had never seen her except for 
a few moments on the Rex , his infallible gift for faces did not fail 
him. He saw her pushing through the crowd that surrounded him. 

“My dear child, how did you get here?” he demanded. 

“If you only knew!” muttered Miss Robinson, immensely relieved 
to be on the right track at last. 

She boarded the Europa but she was still short of money and was 
forced to buy a second-class ticket, until the purser took her check 
and transferred her to first class. Four men from rival New York 
papers and press services were covering the Mayor on his anxious 
dash across the Atlantic. On the night of the political gathering he 
told them all he would have a statement for them at 8.30 p.m. It was 
to be read at the same time from the convention floor. He did not 
want to release it to them until it was public property in New York. 

When the time came the five reporters surrounded him in the 
smoking room. There Mr. Walker announced his retirement from 
politics. He did it somewhat dramatically and seemed to be very 
much moved. The race had taken it out of him. He had been des- 
perately anxious to get to New York in time but the odds were 
against him. 

The reporters rushed upstairs to cable their stories. Miss Robinson 
stumbled over her long dress in her haste and fell head first. Eve- 
ning dress is apt to get in the way of the girl reporter. She batted 
out her story at top speed. Hers hit New York first. It reached her 
office before the announcement of the Mayor’s retirement had been 
read at the convention, and was on the street a few minutes after- 
wards, a neat piece of work for her paper. 

King Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, was staying at the 
Burden estate on Long Island when Grace circumvented his guards 
and got into conversation with him at a polo field. He has always 
been one of the more difficult celebrities to cover and he led the 
press a dizzy chase during his visits to America. No information was 
given out about his movements. Yet the reporters had to feed their 
papers authentic details about him. This meant camping on his trail; 
chasing across the countryside in pursuit of him; using all their 
ingenuity to get wind of anything he might do. 

State troopers and Department of Justice aeents guarded the 



274 Ladies of the Press 

in Washington, paying his official call at the White House. Sunday 
was his first free day, and he was scheduled to play polo some- 
where on Long Island, but none of the reporters knew where. Oliver 
Garrett, of the World , joined forces with Miss Robinson and one 
or two other reporters. There were four entrances to the estate. 
She was assigned to guard two that were close together. They 
were the back gates and seemed to be the least likely points of exit. 
Whichever one spotted the Prince was to follow him and then 
join his colleagues later on and share what he had. In spite of the 
competitive spirit in newspaper work, there is always collaboration 
when the mechanical odds are heavily against the press. 

Miss Robinson’s car was driven by an East Side sharper. The Daily 
News was placarded in large letters on the side. When she took her 
stand at one of the gates it struck her that this was being rather 
obvious, so she had her driver take off the sign, leaving them an 
anonymous pair. 

“The Prince of Wales may come out by this entrance,” she told 
her companion, “and if he does, don’t let anything stop you. Not 
anything, mind you.” 

“Sure, Miss,” said the delighted chauffeur. 

A Rolls Royce purred smoothly through the gates. Miss Robinson 
was not altogether sure that it was the Prince. But her driver was. 

“There ain’t no doubt of it,” he said. “I seen the ring.” 

They kept close on his trail all the way to the polo field. They 
rolled up so importantly behind him when they reached the bar- 
riers that they were assumed to be part of the entourage. Miss 
Robinson told her driver to park the car and she walked on to the 
field, conspicuous in an orange knitted suit. She did not know what 
she should do, now that she was on the spot. She stood about and 
watched the Prince. There were not many persons in sight— only the 
grooms and one or two society women who had heard that he was 
going to be there. There were fewer than a dozen spectators al- 
together. 

Miss Robinson saw that Burt, his Scotland Yard man, had left his 
side for a moment while the horses were being changed. Now, she 
thought, I shall have to go through with this. She walked straight 
jip tib him and flung questions at him. He was so surprised that he 
answered them instinctively. She wanted to know if he would play 
in the International matches. She pressed him about his plans. 

“Are you from the press?” he shot at her shrewdly. 

“Yes,” said Miss Robinson. 

He was quite pleasant about it and went on with his polo. He 
stopped playing a few minutes later. As Grace was walking away, 



Enter the Tabloids 27 5 

Burt came running after her and said, “The Prince wants to see 
you.” 

This time he was the inquisitor. He wanted to know what press 
arrangements had been made to cover him. He said that he wished 
to be free to have a quiet time. He had not counted on being pur- 
sued by reporters. How could things be managed so that he would 
be left alone? he asked Miss Robinson. 

This was a fine opportunity for a reporter to tell a Prince what he 
should do about the publicity he inevitably incurred. “It may be a 
little disagreeable to you,” she said, “but you probably don’t know 
how many millions of people like to read about you, and perhaps 
you don’t realize how utterly friendly their interest in you is.” 

She told him that the arrangements for covering him were most 
inadequate. “We get merely what your secretary wishes to hand out 
and what you are actually doing we don’t know,” she explained. 
“Therefore, we are forced to the expedient of following you.” 

The Prince said that he would rather have the news given out 
more generously than that he should be trailed. He asked Miss 
Robinson for her card, but the careless girl didn’t have one. So she 
borrowed one from a spectator and wrote down her name and the 
address of the little hotel where she was staying. As the Prince left 
the polo field he waved a friendly good-by. Her enterprise had not 
offended him in the least. Next day a call came through for her 
from one of his staff who wanted to arrange a better way of dis- 
tributing the news. 

But in spite of the Prince’s wishes, things went from bad to worse 
and communication was virtually cut off altogether. This meant 
wild flurries of activity every time a car rolled out from the 
estate; mad dashes after anyone who looked like the Prince; frantic 
telephone calls to New York; lurking figures in the bushes, waiting 
for pictures; and all the horrifying mystery that surrounds the 
celebrity whose press relations are not on a completely frank and 
open basis. 

But Miss Robinson had not yet played her last card. On the night 
that Clarence H. Mackay staged his party for the Prince at Harbor 
Hill she and Shannon Cormack, then on the Times , d*™^ 
they would be present if they had to crash the g 
staying in a Syosset railroad lodging house, as th 
within reach. Her roommate was Lucy Doyle. 

Canada as Cornelia, of the Toronto Telegrafyi. 
dashingly for the party in a coral frock and tui 
The Ford company had put a Lincoln car an 
Jimmie at the disposal of the reporters. She 
mandeered it and set off on their, .somewhat da 



27 6 Ladies of the Press 

“The thing to do,” said Shannon, a war veteran with a fine row of 
decorations and an enterprising spirit, “is to be bold.” 

Mr. Cormack has never been less than bold and Miss Robinson, 
under a retiring exterior, can always hold her own with the most 
hard-boiled members of the profession, when the interests of her 
paper are at stake. She marches in quietly where the blustering 
might falter. 

They rode up the avenue through a border of pine trees strung 
with colored lights. Mr. Cormack leaned forward and advised Jimmie 
to throw away his cigar. He switched on all the lights. His war 
decorations blazed against his black suit. Miss Robinson bared her 
shoulder and looked as casual in the back seat as one of the ladies 
in a cigarette advertisement. They went triumphantly past all the 
guards. Whenever they were stopped Mr. Cormack, who is an Aus- 
tralian, leaned forward and spilled a few words in an accent that 
linked him convincingly with the British Empire. A great many 
Britons were arriving as guests. Then, as they neared the door, he 
spotted a tan car with a General inside. It was General Robert Lee 
Bullard, whom he happened to know. This was a lucky circumstance. 

As the butler’s eye fell on the arriving pair, Mr. Cormack was 
deep in conversation with General Bullard at the front door. The 
Department of Justice agents knew the two arrivals by sight, but 
such was their ease that it never occurred to them that the reporters 
had crashed the gate right under their noses. Frank L. Baker, society 
editor of the Times , was there by invitation. It seemed logical 
enough that the others might have arrived by the same conventional 
route. But Ellin Mackay wasn’t fooled. As Miss Robinson approached 
her in the receiving line, her face froze up. She spotted her at once 
as a crasher. However, she made no move to have her put out. All 
night long Miss Robinson expected someone to come and whisper 
in her ear that she had better move on. But soon she was dancing 
with one of the Prince’s aides and enjoying herself thoroughly. She 
and Cormack stayed much longer than the Prince. He danced four 
times, then went on to a smaller party. He was repeating history in 
dancing with his hostess, now Mrs. Irving Berlin. His grandfather, 
King Edward VII, had danced many times in London to the Vic- 
torian measure with Ellin’s grandmother, Mrs. John W. Mackay. 
She had been one of his favorites and he had frequently been a 
guest at her home in Carlton House Terrace. 

Before the eveniqg was ended Burt had given Miss Robinson an 
exclusive story on the sale of the Prince’s polo ponies and the fact 
that he was going to visit South America. She shared with her col- 
leagues all that she had picked up at the party. 

When Captain Battejtson evolved* the scheme of building* a swim- 



Enter the Tabloids 277 

ming pool for the White House, Miss Robinson was assigned to 
broach the matter to President Roosevelt. She first introduced the 
subject at one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s press conferences. Stephen Early 
regarded the suggestion favorably. The bank holiday was on and the 
President was extremely busy. A number of complications arose. But 
he received her and drew plans himself for the type of pool he 
wanted. The original plan was to make it an elaborate $40,000 pool. 
But he said that he wanted a simpler one, costing about $25,000. In 
sketching it for Miss Robinson he explained the symmetrical needs 
that accorded best with the architecture of the White House. 

When Mr. Payne, who had moved over to the Mirror in the 
interim, engineered the reopening of the Hall-Mills case in 1926, 
four years after the murder, there was no more diligent worker on 
the story than Miss Robinson. Like Julia Harpman before her, she 
worked night and day on this difficult assignment. She was doubly 
harassed by the knowledge that the Mirror had the inside trail on 
the story. 

When Mrs. Hall was released from jail and her brother, Willie 
Stevens, was about to be taken into custody along with Henry Car- 
pender. Miss Robinson, Edward Hall, of the Times , and Robert 
Conway, of the American , were all arrested for loitering in the vi- 
cinity of the Hall home in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A thunder- 
storm was raging. Miss Robinson, in a light summer dress, was stand- 
ing dripping between Mrs. Hall’s paved walk and the curbstone. 
She was not actually on her property. The rector’s widow, behind 
the curtains of her home, was furious to see reporters within range 
of the house. At all times she resented any attempt to photograph or 
talk to her. She was particularly solicitous where Willie was con- 
cerned, because of his mental deficiency. And she knew that he was 
about to be taken into custody. So she telephoned to the police, de- 
manding action. An officer appeared and told them that they were 
all under arrest. 

“And on what charge, may we ask?” they chorused. 

“There is a city charge against loitering,” said the policeman. 

Miss Robinson stood her ground. “I can’t move,” she insisted. 
“There is going to be an arrest in a few minutes, and I’ve got to 
have the story.” 

This was unanswerable logic to a reporter but not to a policeman. 
Mr. Hall began to argue and Mr. Conway high-hatted the officer 
of the law. “Never fight with a vulgarian,” said Bob. It is one of 
his newspaper principles. 



278 Ladies of the Press 

her rivals were ambushed around the block. But she was marched 
off to the police station, protesting bitterly all the way. The situa- 
tion was worse for her than for her companions. The News and the 
Mirror were in hot rivalry and working on the same deadline. 
Obviously Phil Payne’s crew were not going to be slow about 
announcing the arrest of Willie Stevens. The one piece of new 
evidence that had been dug up hung directly on Willie— the finger- 
prints alleged to be his which were on the card that rested fan- 
tastically against Dr. Hall’s shoe when his body was found in de 
Russey’s Lane. Willie had not yet had his chance to give his im- 
pressive performance on the witness stand, thereby demolishing all 
his critics with his dignity, candor and clear-headedness. 

Her reflections on the importance of the story did not add to Miss 
Robinson’s peace of mind when she got to the police station and 
found that she could not even telephone to her office. She and her 
companions were treated like ordinary criminals. Finally they were 
released on $20 bonds and were told to report in court that evening. 
As soon as they could escape they leaped into a taxi and got back 
to the Hall home a few minutes after the arrests had taken place. 
Miss Robinson got her office on the telephone. A man was already 
on the job. That night the judge reprimanded the three reporters 
for loitering. It seemed farcical to veterans who had been bivouack- 
ing for years outside homes where tragedies were being played out. 

During this period Miss Robinson worked eighteen hours a day, 
dashing about in taxis, pursuing fantastic leads. Every murder in- 
vestigation brings the same mysterious round of tips, some of which 
hold up, most of which end in smoke. But they all seem vital 
at the time to the reporter working on the story. They have to be 
checked to the last ditch. 

She did brilliant work on the trial, writing the lead day after 
day, turning out thousands of words, giving graphic pictures of one 
of the most remarkable court-room dramas of the century. She is one 
of the few successful women reporters who make free use of short- 
hand. It has aided her greatly in her trial work, since her paper runs 
voluminous question and answer testimony. Her most exciting day in 
court— and she has had a few— was when Mrs. Gibson was carried in 
dying on her hospital cot, to denounce Mrs. Hall; and her mother, 
an old crone, hobbled down the aisle in turn to denounce her. 

Again Miss Robinson turned out volumes of words on the Snyder- 
Gray trial, saw Ruth take her sentence, watched her daughter Lor- 
raine mount the stand, an innocent figure in a blue cape and tailored 
hat. That day she wanted to .make Lorraine the lead of her story, 
but it was also JudijyG^y^ cby on the witness stand, and her news 
sense overrule :tion to the child’s appearance 



Enter the Tabloids 279 

in this grisly case. Attempts were made to have Miss Robinson cover 
the actual execution of Ruth Snyder, but Warden Lawes, who is 
always averse to the presence of women on these occasions, would 
not hear of it. 

Miss Robinson is not a sentimentalist. She has listened to too much 
sordid court testimony to be swayed much by the attitudes of wit- 
nesses. She got her court baptism at the Rhinelander divorce trial, 
as stiff a dose of realism as any girl reporter would encounter in a 
lifetime of work. Most of the testimony was unprintable and Justice 
Joseph L. Morschauser cleared the court room of women when Kip 
Rhinelander’s letters to Alice, his mulatto sweetheart, were read. 
Three women reporters were allowed to stay. She was one of them. 

Miss Robinson was bom in Beatrice, Nebraska, and went to the 
University of Nebraska but did not graduate. She had planned to 
teach English literature and rhetoric. But her father died when she 
was finishing her junior year in college. So she set out to earn a liv- 
ing. She worked on the Omaha Bee , starting at $10 a week. She 
is now one of the most highly paid women reporters in the country, 
and with good reason. 

When she first came East she worked for six months on the 
Newark Ledger , most of the time as city editor. Then she moved 
to New York, where she knew no one. She had her first cocktail at 
the Brevoort, her first cigarette at the Port Arthur tea-room in 
Chinatown. She found a room for $3 a week and set out to capture 
a newspaper job. Her first venture was the Times. She saw Mr. Van 
Anda time and again. He was amiable but discouraging. She tried 
all the other papers in town. Then she went to work as a typist for 
the League to Enforce Peace, which was sponsored by William 
Howard Taft. She got $22 a week and enjoyed the job. Next she 
did make-up for a weekly paper run by John Walker Harrington. 
When this expired she sold stories on space to the Sun. For one 
period she worked in the magazine bureau of the Red Cross. Then 
a friend on the Mail told her that the woman’s page editor had just 
been fired. She knew make-up and headlines, so she went after the 
job and got it at once. 

Miss Robinson wanted to modernize the woman’s page of the 
Mail But she was up against tradition. She loved the composing 
room but felt cramped in her editorial capacity. She heard of an 
opening on the American , which was starting a magazine section 
of tabloid size to go inside the paper. Florence McCarthy hired her 
at once. She worked for him for two months and then received an 
offer from the News . Tb^ new tahlnid was hpcn'nnintr fn he a success 
but was still regarded \ yes. The 

paper was set up in th tad been 



280 Ladies of the Press 

spotted there by executives of the News. They wanted a society 
editor. They offered her $20 a week more than she was getting, and 
also a contract. But it took her some time to make up her mind as to 
what she should do. They explained that they wanted a girl who 
had a good news sense and a flair for feature stories rather than one 
who knew society. 

She took the job and luck was with her from the start. She was 
covering society at Palm Beach and was lingering on the sands late 
one afternoon, wondering what on earth she would file that evening, 
when she saw flames leaping from the roof of the Breakers Hotel. 
She had never covered a fire in her life. The Fire Department had 
not yet been called. She put in the alarm and she and a companion 
ran to meet the guests who were beginning to pour out of their 
rooms. 

She had a mental record of the well-known people who were 
staying there. It was the height of the social season. She rounded up 
what she could get on the spot, then left her friend to cover for her 
and raced across the golf links through clouds of smoke to the near- 
est Western Union office. The fire was swift and spectacular. She 
got a leased wire and hung on to it while she batted out her story. 
Her friend came in an hour later and fed her with additional details. 
She beat the Associated Press and all her rivals. By the time they 
arrived no wires were available. 

The sparks from the Breakers set fire to the awning of her hotel. 
The lights went out. Miss Robinson rushed upstairs to her room 
for a bag containing some important papers and kept it beside her, 
afraid that the hotel would bum down while she wrote her story. 
She dictated direct to the operator in the darkness. She finished with 
a fine round-up on an important news story. 

Soon after this she ceased to cover society as “Debutante.” Her 
news stories appeared under her own by-line. Her reputation grew 
rapidly as she did one capable job after another. She left the city 
staff for a time to work for Liberty. She went on a cross-country 
tour with her sister, writing up the adventures of the Gasoline 
Gypsies. But she was glad to get back to the city room, where she is 
singularly at home; to hurry out of the office with a bulletin launch- 
ing a brand new story; to sit in court during the tense moments 
when a jury files in with the verdict “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” 
Miss Robinson can give the entire sisterhood lessons in the dramatics 
of her profession. 



[ »8i } 


Chapter XX/// 

THE TABLOIDS FLOURISH 


T he music was soft, the lights subdued, all the debutantes 
of old Quebec were gathered in the dining-room of the 
Chateau Frontenac. A slim youth sat at a table, his nervous 
glance flickering over the room. No one needed to look at him twice 
to know that he was Edward, Prince of Wales. This time he hap- 
pened to be traveling incognito as Baron Renfrew. 

Across the room was a girl in green, her blonde beauty luminous 
against the dark paneling of the walls. In her hand was a glass of 
sparkling Burgundy. Two pairs of light blue eyes met for a moment. 
She waved her glass delicately in an implied toast and drank. That 
night she danced again and again with the Prince of Wales, rained 
questions on him, got candid answers. 

But twelve o’clock struck. The moonbeams broke, the dancing 
ended and the modem Cinderella had to dash in her silver slippers to 
the Western Union office to tap out copy for her paper on a type- 
writer. She had a pencil in her purse and a story that any tabloid 
city editor might dream about in his more delirious moments. She 
was the one newspaper woman who had danced with the Prince of 
Wales, broken down his guard, seen behind the polite mask he turns 
to the public. 

But she never wrote the story she might have written or the story 
her paper wanted. She wouldn’t use the capital I which gave it its 
primary interest. She remained the mystery girl in green who was 
s#4fed on the front pages of newspapers from Alaska to Australia 
next morning as having bewitched the FnHfce on a dance floor. Only 
her own papernseemed to be short of the facts. 

Miss Stanley suffered when the dance was over and the evening’s 
glamour had turned to ashes. The Prince had thought her a New 
York debutante under the wing of a chaperon. He had talked to 
her freely, had given her his views on many things, from ties to 
official pomp. But she was a newsnaoer Virl. She knew the tradition 
of her craft— always the uld not 

be quoted. No girl repon ng spot. 



282 


Ladies of the Press 

She wrote a story and made it completely impersonal, then three 
others in the same vague vein. They were done in the fairy-tale 
style of the girl’s dream prince. Any girl dancing with any prince. 
Not Imogene Stanley, dancing with the Prince of Wales. Her edi- 
tors were disappointed. Her more hard-boiled colleagues condemned 
her for letting her personal reactions interfere with her news sense. 
The articles were brought to the attention of the Prince. He re- 
gretted that they had been written. Discreet inquiries through offi- 
cial sources were started from Buckingham Palace about the “girl in 
green” who had emerged full-blown into a tabloid reporter. 

The dream faded. Imogene went back to her desk. She covered 
police court, murder trials, kidnappings— all the grist of the day’s 
news. Soon afterwards she left newspaper work altogether. Today 
she lives with her sister on a lonely hacienda in the middle of the 
thorny Mexican brush— an orchid strangely lost in the desert. 

Yet she was generally regarded as the loveliest reporter who ever 
set foot in a New York newspaper office. She would have shone in 
any setting; in a city room she was a sensation. No one knew much 
about her except that she came from Texas. She made her first ap- 
pearance in the early twenties— her fragile beauty giving her a 
winged air in the dingy court rooms to which her work took her. 
Pale gold hair framed an arresting face. She was slim, tall, eager. 
She had grace and an ardent spirit. Lawyers slowed up in their 
summations and fumbled for words when she walked in and took 
her seat at the press table. Judges beamed on her and jurors were a 
little bedazzled. Only her skeptical colleagues looked at her with 
equanimity, wondering vaguely how so delicate a piece of humanity 
had got loose among them, and what she could possibly be doing 
that was useful. 

Soon she surprised them by proving that she was also a good 
reporter. She had brains as well as a perfect profile. She could write. 
There was little she couldn’t get in the way of news. Doors opened 
automatically for her. Lawyers gave her secret tips on stories. But- 
lers thought twice before banging the door in her face. Her paper 
was the Daily News and she was manna from heaven for a tabloid. 
So Philip Payne thought the night he ordered her to leave at once 
for Canada to cover the Prince of Wales and “get an interview.” He 
believed that nothing was impossible for the ingenious tabloid re- 
porter. Practically nothing is. 

Imogene packed her best evening dress. It was to identify her 
later among the Prince’s dancing partners as the girl in green. 
She took ** y;™ic ct*o^o rt* m,v»^ sure s h e was sett j n g 

out on ai rake all night as she 

journeyed i to attain her object. 



The Tabloids Flourish 263 

She did not really believe for a moment that she could crash the 
Prince’s guard. She knew that he had never said more than “How do 
you do?” or “It’s warm, isn’t it?” to a girl reporter before, and always 
in a formal way in a receiving line. He had danced at different times 
with all sorts of girls but had avoided those who wrote for the 
papers. The dangers were too obvious. His aides were doubly careful 
on his trips to America to protect him from such hazards. They par- 
ticularly feared the merry antics of the tabloids. 

It was the autumn of 1923. Royalty was still more or less divine. 
Queen Marie had not yet got chummy with the press. Nor had quite 
so many princes visited American shores. Imogene knew that it 
was lese-majeste to quote a prince, more particularly the heir to 
the British throne. She made her first attempt to get near him at the 
Quebec Golf Club but all she saw of him was a fast moving figure 
through the blurred September haze. She was one of a group of 
scribes who watched his movements from a distance. As the day 
wore on she went to the telegraph office and filed a routine story 
on what he had done, how he had looked, the clothes he had worn. 

He was leaving for the West on the following day. She knew 
that she had little time to try for an exclusive story. The evening 
was her only chance. She returned to the Chateau Frontenac and 
donned her spectacular green gown. She had heard that he might 
appear in the public dining-room that night. 

By chance, as she stepped from the elevator, she encountered a 
New York woman and her daughter, both old friends. They ex- 
changed greetings and went in to dine together. Imogene now had 
the conventional backing of a chaperon. The Prince of Wales and 
his party were already seated. The newcomers were placed at a table 
almost directly opposite the royal group, but some distance away. 
Imogene faced the Prince. There were masses of autumn flowers. 
Every table was taken. The dining-room was festive with gay colors 
and the rustling silks of the debutantes of Quebec and their mothers. 
Everyone in the room was concentrating politely on the table where 
the young Prince sat. 

His blue eyes flickered wearily over the familiar scene. Crowds 
everywhere. The attention of too many people. He smoked and took 
it all in. Imogene watched him closely. She saw every move that he 
made. She was taking mental notes for her paper. What he wore. 
What he ate. Her glance strayed around the room. She wondered 
which of the buds of Quebec he would choose for dancing partners. 
That was where her story w ould lie, since ev cr rnn » hn &w that he 
usually picked a partner and on 

until he felt like stoppinj 

It was then that she ss 


her. She 



284 Ladies of the Press 

waited until she was quite sure before she raised her glass in a bold 
bid for his attention. Then she sat back and wondered what she 
had done. She thought of Phil Payne, of her paper, of the beat she 
would score if the Prince consented to talk to her, even for a few 
moments. She drank her coffee, her hands shaking with excitement. 
The dancing began. It was the era of screeching jazz, before the 
crooning vogue. There were snatches of laughter, voices rising and 
falling in erratic waves. The sense of excitement in the dining-room 
was intense. It revolved around the fair-headed youth who seemed 
more nervous than anyone present. 

Which girl would he single out as a dancing partner? It was not 
a private party. He was there incognito. There was no obligation 
on his part to dance with anyone in particular-no hostess or hostess’s 
daughter to be shepherded around the floor. He could take his pick. 
The barrage of invitation was terrific. He ignored it all and chose 
Phyllis Burstall, a Quebec girl, for the first dance. Immediately the 
floor was filled with swaying couples. The dance was on. 

Imogene sat and watched, her chin cupped in her hands. Her 
glance followed the Prince’s steps with interest. She was mentally 
taking notes. She must have something to write when the dance 
was over. It might not be much but it would make a livelier story 
than his game of golf. The public was always interested in the danc- 
ing partners of the Prince of Wales. She was still abstracted when 
General Gerald F. Trotter, the Prince’s groom-in- waiting, ap- 
proached with a military stride and asked her for a dance. As they 
whirled around the room he told her he wished to present her to 
Baron Renfrew. The fox trot ended. She found herself shaking hands 
with the Prince, looking directly at a boyish countenance. He gave 
a quick bow. 

“May I have the next dance?” he asked. 

Every eye in the room was fastened on the girl in green as her 
steps fell into tune with those of her royal partner. They made a 
stunning pair. Two blond heads of the same shade. Two pairs of 
eyes of the same light blue. Her face was not known in Quebec. 
Whence had she come? Dowagers exchanged questioning glances; 
the debutantes were a little staggered. They couldn’t deny her 
beauty. They saw that she was chic. 

Imogene knew that the dance would soon be over. She swayed 
thoughtfully in the Prince’s arms, her mind on the alert. Questions 
bubbled to her lips. But at first she said nothing. She remembered 
royal etiquette-that he .must hz. the. £rsXM) speak. He had just sent 
word tc justo. He told Imogene 

why— th is work when they play 

so fast,” 



The Tabloids Flourish 285 

He saw at once that she was an American. He tactfully recalled 
that he had danced to Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in London and 
thought it good, the time quite perfect. He pounced on a new slang 
phrase that she used and asked her what it meant. She explained 
that the sports writers of New York were threading it into the 
English language. He laughed at that. He liked American slang. She 
found that the Prince didn’t care for the one-step, but could forgive 
the swiftness of rhythm if the tune were good. He preferred the 
drum beaten slowly and the saxophone not jazzed up in the Ted 
Lewis manner. He seemed to her a good dancer, because he liked 
what he was doing. He paid no attention to the vigilant glances fol- 
lowing them around the room. It was nothing new for him. But 
Imogene found it an embarrassing experience. He talked little at 
the start. When the floor was jammed he showed adroitness in weav- 
ing his way through the dancing couples. 

The Prince found her an engaging partner. He had no suspicions 
when her questions began to come thick and fast. She remembered 
his flair for setting new fashions; she knew that her paper would 
expect some comment on his dress, so she ventured a remark on 
the unusual width of his black tie. “Don’t you like it?” he shot at 
her quickly. She said that of course she did. By degrees she asked 
him all the things that occur to a reporter who has little time in 
which to get information. He was candid, responsive, charming 
to her. At last he gave the signal, the music stopped and he took 
her back to his table where General Trotter and Sir Godfrey 
Thomas, his secretary, sat. They drank champagne and chatted of 
inconsequential things. He danced with her again— and then again. 
The orchestra played the numbers he liked. Imogene followed his 
intricate steps with accuracy. 

The evening wore on. The air became quite electric. She was 
conscious of the suppressed fury that surrounded her. None of the 
other beauties in the room had a clue to the girl who was usurping 
the Prince’s attention so completely. He seemed to see no one else. 
He became more articulate. She learned that he suffered under the 
restraints of his position, that he could not understand the insatiable 
curiosity that surrounded him, that he hated snobs but would rather 
fall in with their plans than hurt their feelings, that he was sensitive 
to the world’s conception of him as a pleasure-loving Prince. He 
spoke of his travels, his speech-making, handshaking, visiting. “I call 
it work,” he said, “if the world doesn’t.” 


Imogene caught a fleer’“ l: kes. She 

learned that his life was plomacy 

and the exercise of his ot 5 laborer 

or cab driver was more Prince. 



286 Ladies of the Press 

But she was conscious throughout her conversation with him of 
his sense of responsibility for his office. 

She noticed personal details as she sat beside him at his table— 
the cigarettes made from a special blend of Virginian tobacco which 
he smokes incessantly and carries in a plain silver case, the gift of his 
father; the plain gold ring on the little finger of his right hand; 
his habit of saying “How amusing” or “Very funny.” 

There were other reporters present. One or two from New York 
knew who Imogene was and flashed the story to their papers. They 
were the only persons in the room aware of her identity. Others 
who did not recognize her sent out press service dispatches about 
the “mystery girl in green” who had danced continuously with the 
Prince. This was the first inkling her editors had that their girl re- 
porter had achieved the incredible. While she was still out on the 
dance floor they knew it. Phil Payne’s assignment had been a suc- 
cess. They hoped for a thrilling story that night. It did not come. 

Cinderella, in her silver slippers, fresh from dancing with the 
Prince, filed a routine add to her earlier story that made the night 
men gnash their teeth. They were disappointed in her. To have 
talked to the Prince and not delivered the story was incomprehen- 
sible to the exacting newspaper mind. But she had an appointment to 
see him next day. She knew that she must tell him who she was. She 
would beg him then for facts that she could use. Having gained his 
confidence and enlisted his interest, she felt sure that he would give 
her something for publication. Her office had sent her a list of ques- 
tions to ask him. They knew that she was to see him again before he 
left for the West. 

Next day the Prince received her in his suite. She told him at once 
that she represented a New York tabloid paper. It was an embarrass- 
ing moment. He looked at her with dismay, then turned to General 
Trotter, who was appalled, since it was his particular duty to protect 
the heir to the British throne from a situation such as this. But after 
he had taken it in, it made no difference to the Prince. His manner 
did not change, but he was wary when the questions were sprung. 
They were not the questions usually asked a Prince. In the cold light 
of morning, away from the roseate glow of ballroom lights, they 
seemed a little brash. They went right to the mark on the ticklish 
subject of a royal marriage. This was the period when one European 
princess after another was being named as the possible bride of the 
Prince of Wales. He refused to be serious on the subject, however. 
When a ] his smoothly brushed 

blond hair e had eight already. I’m 

not engagi e considered in the far 

future. I h ’ 



The Tabloids Flourish 287 

The Prince caught his train for the West, en route to his ranch. 
Imogene hurried again to the Western Union office to get her story 
on the wire. First she sent a flash to Phil Payne announcing that 
she had her interview. Then the trouble began. Although he had sent 
her to Quebec on the odd chance of getting a few words with the 
Prince, his keen news sense convinced him that he now had a differ- 
ent kind of story on his hands. He no longer cared about the straight 
interview. He wanted the story of Cinderella’s romantic evening, 
written by Cinderella herself. He wanted to know what she had 
thought while dancing with the Prince; what he had said to her; 
what her reactions had been in the crowded ballroom with hundreds 
of curious eyes upon her. 

Imogene had been frank with him, but she would not write the 
story along the personal lines he laid out. She tried to show him how 
difficult her situation was. The wires burned with hectic repartee. 
Finally, after hundreds of words had been exchanged by telegraph, 
she fMy refused to do what he wanted. But she filed a story describ- 
ing tne^evening in a detached way, not using the personal pronoun. 
Only the initiated newspaper reader would gather from it that Imo- 
gene herself had danced with the Prince of Wales. A picture ran 
beside it identifying her as the mystery woman in green. From that 
time on she became known in newspaper circles as the girl who 
danced with the Prince. 

She had traveled far and fast in a short space of time. Only a few 
years earlier she had dreamed of a newspaper career as she sat at a 
desk in a high school in Dallas. When chosen class prophet in her 
senior year, she saw herself as a successful newspaper woman in the 
prophecy she wrote. But she did not foresee that she would become 
a New York newspaper star and dance with the future King of 
Great Britain. 

She entered the profession, like many others, by the stenographic 
route. After high school she took a business course and moved to 
Washington, where by chance she became stenographer to the free- 
lance political correspondent of a string of Western papers. He dic- 
tated his dispatches to her and from them she got her first ideas of 
newspaper style. When he could no longer afford to employ her, he 
gave her a letter of introduction to Lowell Mellett, city editor of the 
Washington Daily News, who promptly gave her a trial assignment. 
Soon after she joined the staff, the roof of the Knickerbocker Thea- 


ter collapsed. It was i shington 

had been swept for wstorm. 

Twenty-nine inches < ined be- 
yond capacity, collapi lies. The 



a88 Ladies of the Press 

dead numbered ninety-five. It was one of the worst disasters in the 
history of the capital. 

Imogene was tobogganing with friends in a park nearby and heard 
the crash of the falling roof. The News was an afternoon paper and 
there were no editions to catch at that time of night, but, glowing 
with youthful zeal, she rushed to the telephone and reported to 
the man on dog watch what had happened. Then she went back to 
the scene and found that it really was a major disaster. 

By this time Mr. Mellett had routed reporters out of bed and a 
crew had arrived. But Imogene had been first on the spot and she 
brought in a generous amount of color and eyewitness material. In 
the general confusion two stories appeared in one issue with her 
by-line. This was only two weeks after she made her newspaper 
debut— heady fare for a young reporter. 

Some time later she decided to try New York. She arrived with 
letters of introduction. The second one, together with some sample 
clippings, landed her a job on the Daily News. She was motion pic- 
ture critic at first, then was transferred to the city staff. Her first 
murder case was at Toms River, New Jersey, where Mrs. Ivy Giber- 
son was being tried for sliding an army pistol along the pillow be- 
side her sleeping husband’s head and pulling the trigger. This was 
in the summer of 1922. 

Imogene walked into court with her fair hair cut like a page’s, 
and her light blue eyes slightly touched with wonder. The testi- 
mony was sordid and cruel. To her it seemed like a Grand Guignol 
performance. She had never encountered anything like it before. 
She wrote excellent stories on a typewriter borrowed from a lawyer, 
her paper illumined by an old-fashioned coal-oil lamp. The woman 
was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. She was a plump, 
middle-aged harridan who took the jury’s findings without blinking. 
It was a strong dose of court-room drama for an ingenue. From this 
time on Imogene drew one murder trial after another. She saw 
women convicted, men sentenced to death. The most notable of 
these was Gerald Chapman. He was handsome, debonair— scoffed at 
the fate that had overtaken him. 

While Ruth Snyder’s jury was deliberating on a May day in 1927, 
Imogene was assigned to stay with her mother, Mrs. Josephine 
Brown, and convey the verdict to the unfortunate woman when the 
city desk gave her a flash. No one doubted what the verdict would 
be. Ruth’s ten-$ear-old daughter there, unconscious of the 


dreadl 

pas a long wait. They 

sat in 

irraine played with a 

puzzl< 

: in silence, except for 

an oc 

way from the tragic 

house 

with some friends. 



The Tabloids Flourish 289 

The jury came in at 6.58 p.m. A few minutes later Imogene got 
the verdict by telephone from her city desk. Mrs. Brown rose 
silently and walked toward the foot of the staircase. Then she was 
told that her daughter had been sentenced to death. Mrs. Brown 
made no outcry but dropped in a spreading heap. The detective 
who had been guarding the door had disappeared. So Imogene half 
carried, half dragged the unconscious woman upstairs and got her 
into bed. 

When she came downstairs again Lorraine had come in. Her 
cheeks were flushed. Her eyes were bright from play. In her hand 
was a bunch of violets she had plucked. Imogene had received orders 
from her paper to explain “tactfully” to the child about her mother’s 
fate. She couldn't do it. She never did. 

When Jack Dempsey was still champion (shortly after the Firpo 
fight) she was assigned to interview him. The meeting was friendly 
and Jack asked her if she would dine with him some night when she 
was free. He said he would telephone to her at her paper. A few 
days later, when she returned from an assignment that had kept her 
out of the office all day, Colonel Hause, her city editor, came over 
just as she was about to write her day’s story. He leaned over her 
desk and said: 

“Say, is it possible that Jack Dempsey might telephone you 
here?” 

“Why, yes, it’s possible,” said Imogene. “In fact, it’s probable. 
I’m expecting a telephone call from him.” 

The Colonel turned red, then white. He explained that a call for 
her had been switched to the city desk. He had taken it. He had 
heard a high-pitched voice ask for Miss Stanley and add, “This is 
Jack Dempsey speaking.” The Colonel had never heard that Demp- 
sey’s voice did not match his physique. Nobody was going to pull 
his leg. 

“Oh, yeah, how do you get that way?” he demanded. 

Said Dempsey, again in a fine soprano, “What do you mean? 
This is Jack Dempsey speaking.” 

The Colonel sneered. “Yes, I heard you the first time. Well, if 
you’re Jack Dempsey, I’m Firpo.” 

Jack got mad. “Why, you so-and-so, I’ll come down and teach 
you I’m Jack Dempsey.” He then hung up. 

“It was Dempsey all right,” said Imogene. 

“Whew! I’m going to pack a jjun for a few da¥^_£ai<JJ^oIonel 
Hause. 


When she dined la 

id he 

was amused. He had 

mny. 

One of the best jot 

view, 

was the way in which 

true- 



290 Ladies of the Press 

ture in Brooklyn in June, 1923. A two-car Bay Ridge elevated train 
jumped the rails and plunged with a grinding roar and a flash of 
electric short circuits thirty-five feet to the street. Seven persons 
were killed and seventy injured. She was at the scene before the in- 
jured had been taken away. Looking an utterly frivolous object in 
high-heeled slippers, with a wad of copy paper in one hand and a 
pencil in the other, she picked her way through the confusion and 
horror, counting the dead, making accurate notes on what she saw. 
She did a calm and well-planned round-up for which any man 
would have been commended. It was reminiscent of the theater 
catastrophe in Washington and was not the sort of story on which 
women often write the news lead. 

The last big story Imogene covered was the visit of Queen Marie 
of Rumania. This was after the Prince of Wales episode. Her nerves 
were shattered and her chase after the Queen through the snows 
of a Canadian winter did not improve her health. She was assigned 
at the last moment and was unable to get on the Queen’s train. The 
result was that she had to keep up with the royal party by means 
of the regular railway schedules and hired automobiles— a killing 
race. She felt worn-out, ill and crushed. She decided to give up 
newspaper work altogether. So she walked into her office one day 
and quietly resigned. Since then she has never written a news- 
paper story. 

She went to Hollywood for a time to write for the films. Then 
she joined her sister on her Mexican hacienda. The new highway 
connecting Mexico City and the United States passes within eight 
miles of it, but the road between is dusty, rutted, gouged with 
holes, crowded on either side with thorny slashing brush. A house, 
a stable, a windmill and a gasoline engine arc grouped on a walled 
plot of tamed ground. There are a few cultivated fields and a cluster 
of tumbling adobe houses in which the employees of the hacienda 
live. And here Imogene, still a beauty, lives in solitude, with memo- 
ries of gala days. Her newspaper career was brief, vivid, highly 
keyed. She touched the high spots in a dramatic way. 

“Once upon a time just an ordinary girl danced with a prince of 
royal blood, and, not unexpectedly, found him to be just a nice 
boy,” she wrote on one occasion. “Most certainly, when at play, he 
is an unassuming gay companion. Quite full of spontaneous, whole- 


some f"~ 

- 

“She 

le arms of the world’s 

most c 

lain the most thrilling 

hour c 


The 

X of able newspaper 



The Tabloids Flourish 291 

women, both on the Sunday and daily editions. In the early days 
of its existence Roberta Yates did a capable job editing the Sunday 
paper. She came to New York in 1921 from the Cincinnati Post , 
worked for the News staff for two years and in 1923 was appointed 
Sunday editor. 

Today Ama Barker assists Richard Clarke in getting out the 
Sunday paper, which has a circulation of nearly 3,000,000. On his 
days off she takes complete charge. Miss Barker’s newspaper career 
started concurrently with Julia Harpman’s in Knoxville. When these 
two bright girls were assigned to cover a star chamber session of the 
Daughters of the Confederacy, involving the honor of some of the 
members, they climbed into a large empty box beside a thin partition 
at the rear of the hall where the cup-cake contretemps was under 
way. When judgment was pronounced on the errant daughters, Ama 
climbed out of the box, bolted down the back stairs, and telephoned 
her scoop to the Sentinel. 

But for once such zeal was greeted icily in a newspaper office. The 
managing editor sent for the eager cub. He was related by marriage 
to one of the Daughters of the Confederacy; he knew their ruling 
had not been made public. He was angry with his enterprising 
reporter. The result was that Miss Harpman’s paper got a clean beat. 
In time Miss Barker went on to Chicago, where she worked for the 
Herald Examiner , when it was trying out an illustrated tabloid sec- 
tion. In 1922 she came to New York and free-lanced successfully 
until 1925, when she joined the staff of the News. 

When she was called on to impersonate a relative of the family 
in the Peacox torch murder, Miss Barker bought herself a gray 
switch with three strands. With two she arranged a demure hair 
part; the third was used for a bun. She set forth, thoroughly dis- 
guised as a faded spinster, to join Grace Robinson, who was cover- 
ing the story. The switch is kept in a locker in the News office, 
ready for further sleuthing. 

Miss Barker’s functions now are mostly executive, although she 
writes frequently for the Sunday paper. She reads copy, does 
make-up, writes heads, arranges for pictures and superintends the 
manifold details involved in getting out the pup, the pup replate 
and the Saturday afternoon edition— the three phases of supplying 
the Sunday News readers with their favorite paper. 

The weekly features are expanded news stories with the facts 


brought up to date. T of re- 
search in different parts r mem- 
ber of the Sunday sts st goes 

through the morgue foj ivolved 



292 Ladies of the Press 

in the story. Then she works out a series of questions which will 
bring the chronology up to date. For instance, she used dozens of 
correspondents in cities all over the world to trace the survivors of 
the Titanic , Lusitania and General Slocum disasters, and find out 
what had happened to them in the intervening years. She followed 
the same technique for the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago, the 
Morro Castle disaster, the Chester Gillette murder of 1904, and 
dozens of other stories. Sometimes she telegraphs or cables direct 
to the persons involved. Her lines are cast out all over the globe. 
She weaves the old and the new material together in full-bodied 
stories that make illuminating reading. 

Miss Reynolds is a Milwaukee girl who worked her way through 
Marquette University and took a course in journalism. She func- 
tioned for a time as secretary in a coal office, and then managed to 
get on the staff of thcWisconsin News . It was January 2, 1926, when 
she started newspaper work. Everyone in the office but Miss Rey- 
nolds had a hangover. She was twenty-two years old and was wear- 
ing a new homemade dress. After working for half a day she dis- 
covered that in the excitement of a brand new job she had forgotten 
to remove the bastings after pressing. Her salary was $15 and she 
found life exciting. 

Then she met Harry Richard Zander, to whom she is now mar- 
ried. He introduced her to Genevieve Forbes Herrick, and through 
her indirectly she came to New York and landed on the News at 
$40 a week. She didn’t know Astoria from Jersey, but she supplied 
herself with nickels, rode subways, street cars, elevated trains and 
ferries until she was dizzy, and when she started work on a July 
day in 1928, she knew more about the city than most bom New 
Yorkers. But she skipped her lunch that day. She dashed into Wool- 
worth’s for a ring; hurried over to the Municipal Building to get a 
license and promptly married Mr. Zander, without mentioning to 
anyone at her office how she had spent her lunch hour. 

She now lives on Long Island, has two children, and manages to 
do an extremely smart job on Park Row, like her colleague, Miss 
Barker, who also combines matrimony with newspaper work, as 
the wife of Edward Bailey, of Pacific and Atlantic Pictures. 

Another girl with important executive functions in the same or- 
ganization is Molly Slott, assistant manager of the Chicago Tribune - 
New York News Syndicate, Inc. She started on the Tribune as 
secretary to the circulation manager and has been assistant to Arthur 
Crawfc , for the last fifteen 

years. S other syndicated fea- 
tures f< >ughout the country. 

There •* artment alone. 



The Tabloids Flourish 293 

Miss Slott watches color and make-up in the Sunday pages and 
keeps in touch with the salesmen on the road. She has negotiated 
a number of contracts with cartoonists, contributors and publishers, 
and made fast offers on the life stories of Will Rogers, Wiley Post 
and Huey Long, when news of their deaths was flashed into her 
office. Miss Slott sent the first successful wire photograph to a syn- 
dicate list of newspapers as far back as the knock-out blow in the 
Dempsey-Carpentier fight. 

The grim mansion at Thirty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, where 
the six Wendel sisters led their curious ingrown lives, was not opened 
to a reporter from 1896 until the day more than thirty years later 
that the Lady Lon Chaney of the New York press bluffed her way 
in, posing as the employee of a restoring company. 

The stray bits of news that floated to the outside world from this 
frugal family of vast wealth provoked endless speculation in news- 
paper offices. It was known that Ella lived in a gas-lit world, wore 
Victorian frocks of rusty black, starved herself and doted on her 
poodle Toby, for whose benefit she jealously maintained a valuable 
corner lot on Fifth Avenue. 

Edna Ferguson, the parachute jumper who evolved into New 
York’s chameleon sob sister, was called up to the city desk of the 
News one day. 

“See if you can get into the Wendel house and have a look 
around,” she was told. 

“O.K.,” said Miss Ferguson unhesitatingly. 

This was a stiff assignment. To get into the Wendel house was 
reputedly as difficult as breaking into the Tombs. Miss Ferguson 
surveyed the ground carefully. She talked to the doorman of a 
nearby Fifth Avenue shop and learned that Ella, the last of the 
sisters to survive, was in the country and that all house repairs were 
handled by a carpenter who lived along the street. 

She telephoned to the caretaker of the Wendel home and told 
him that the carpenter was sending her to look things over for 
repairs. He let her in but was plainly suspicious. When she crossed 
the threshold she found herself in incredible surroundings. Time 
seemed to have stopped. Through the gloom of the hall she saw 
the old grandfather clock with wooden works, and the carved oak 
stairway. Gas brackets were still in evidence everywhere. First 
the caretaker showed her the rooms that were seldom used. At last 


she got to the dining-r 

at there 

were two tables— one f 

e found 

that this was correct. 


She had to talk fasi 

ad been 

trained in the Wende 

on of a 



294 


Ladies of the Tress 

new patented process for the restoration of old ceilings. She took 
measurements and made notes. She noticed the cracks and the falling 
plaster. But her real interest was centered on the Victorian furnish- 
ings and the old tin bathtubs— an anachronistic touch on Fifth Ave- 
nue. She insisted on seeing Miss Wendel’s bedroom. The caretaker 
demurred. 

“But I have special instructions for this room,” she said. 

“All right, then.” Begrudgingly he opened the door. It was a 
faded old room, barren of any note of comfort. 

“Two beds,” commented Miss Ferguson, as she looked into the 
dim comers. 

“Yes,” said the caretaker. “One is for the dog.” 

Miss Ferguson went back to her office and turned in the first 
circumstantial story of the interior of the house that had found its 
way into print in thirty-five years. Remsen Crawford was the 
last reporter to have seen the Wendel home— undoubtedly one of 
the curiosities of America. 

Before she took up newspaper work Miss Ferguson hung around 
Roosevelt Field, parachute jumping when she got the chance. There 
she met someone with influence on the News who gave her the 
proper introductions. She was taken on for two weeks’ trial. She had 
never done newspaper work before. She had two children at home 
and she had no idea how one went about covering a story. She 
was underfoot for the first ten days. Then suddenly she was as- 
signed to interview Larry Fay, who was in the news at the time 
in connection with the milk probe. It was then she thought of the 
first of the tricks that later earned her the title of the Lady Lon 
Chaney. 

Larry Fay always avoided reporters. Miss Ferguson decided to 
approach him as a gangster girl. She slapped on rouge and mascara 
with a heavy hand, arranged her ash-blonde hair in spit-curls around 
her face and tilted her hat over one eye. Miss Ferguson is tall and 
slim, with brown eyes. With a few deft touches she achieved the 
hard-boiled effect. She minced into Fay’s office, looking mysterious 
and tough. She said that she had an important message for him but 
she would not identify herself further. She was allowed to wait in his 
private office until he telephoned in. She caught his call and inter- 
viewed him over the telephone before his assistants knew who she 
was. Finally they realized what she was doing and cut her off. 

Miss F L --’- *- her office. Her city 

editor w r that she got a desk, 

a locker member of the staff. 

Since th dons. She is acting a 

part nin< lone in her field, and 



The Tabloids Flourish 295 

is successful at it. When the News was conducting a drive against 
tax-free private property, she was assigned to get into Gramercy 
Park, if she could. She had already barged into the sacrosanct Mor- 
gan Library by wearing a smart new hat and an excessively haughty 
manner. The invasion of Gramercy Park called for some ingenuity. 
It was absolutely essential to have a key, or else to climb the fence. 
Carl Warren, a fellow reporter, had scaled the fence the day before. 
It was up to Miss Ferguson to devise something new. 

She watched people coming and going and then she hit on an 
idea. She got her camera man to hide behind one tree in the street 
while she concealed herself behind another. She waited until two 
mild-looking women sitting on benches started toward the gate. 
Then she nonchalantly strolled to the entrance, reaching it at the 
exact moment that they did. As they came out she nipped in, 
smiling gaily and waving a bunch of keys. The rule is that all mem- 
bers with keys must close the gates after them and let no one in who 
does not have a key. But they assumed in this case that things were 
all right. 

Miss Ferguson moved smartly toward a sunny bench. In due time 
the custodian of the park escorted her out. Her camera man re- 
corded every stage of the ejection. The caption ran, “Getting In, 
Coming Out.” They also took pictures, or pix, as the tabloids puck- 
ishly call them, of street gamins looking wistfully in, while the pre- 
sumptively well-off children romped among the trees. The photog- 
rapher and Miss Ferguson combed Third Avenue for the most 
ragged children they could find. But they had to be bribed with 
nickels before they would wear an envious air over their smartly 
dressed contemporaries. The nickels, however, brought them in 
mobs. Miss Ferguson and her companion had to brandish their police- 
cards to persuade passersby that they were not a pair of fiends with 
a pied piper complex. 

Another time Miss Ferguson impersonated a health inspector in 
order to expose the careless kitchen habits of a smart club in West- 
chester. She learned that a number of guests had been ill after eating 
broccoli with hollandaise. Knowing that it would be futile to ques- 
tion the manager about the episode, she tackled the house physician. 

“I’m from Dr. Shirley Wynne’s office, ” she told him sternly. “I 
was sent down to inspect the food here. I understand you have been 
using an inferior brand of sauce, not up to the local food laws at all.” 

The doctor was al? rrnpr ^ and assured her thflf itjvas msfe the fault 


of the food at all, bui riio had 

failed to wash the br< pprqach 

again when there w: lea<fi 

hotels in New York • thaii 



296 Ladies of the Press 

maniac was at large in the hotel, poisoning the food. His handiwork 
had been detected several times. The culprit was caught finally. He 
was a demented bus boy, with a fancied grudge against the manage- 
ment. Like Edna Ferguson, Rosaleen Doherty is also a stunt girl on 
the News , ready to tackle skiing, wear shorts where they are banned, 
or do other monkey shines at the behest of her city editor. 

Another of the newspaper women who add adventure to the 
mere coverage of the news is Lady Terrington, who did hardy work 
on the Morro Castle disaster. She drove down to Asbury Park in 
the storm and helped all night in the rescue work. She managed to 
get on the ship while it was still burning after the wreck. She was 
hauled aboard in the breeches buoy. Her hands, feet and hair were 
badly burned. She helped to rescue a photographer, and she got a 
good first-hand picture for the Mirror of what things were like on 
board the smoldering ship. When she was back on shore again her 
feet were so badly burned that she could not wear her shoes. She 
had to get a friend to drive her car back to New York. On the 
way she spotted a blaze at South Amboy, and went to cover that 
too. The old fire-engine urge. The reporter feels it even more than 
the public. 

Working for Emile Gauvreau, Lady Terrington covered all sorts 
of assignments. She joined the Mirror staff in 1932, first as a guest 
columnist, then as a regular reporter. One of her first assignments 
was to spend the night in a woman’s flop house. She dressed the 
part and carried it off, in spite of her smooth British tongue. Lady 
Terrington is the daughter of Colonel William S. Swiney, who 
commanded the 2nd battalion of the Black Watch and was aide- 
de-camp to the Duke of Edinburgh. She married Lord Terring- 
ton in 1927. She has done newspaper work on both sides of the 
Atlantic, has traveled everywhere, written for magazines and played 
the lead in one of the first talking pictures made in England. She 
now free-lances and is special correspondent for the Empire News. 

The tabloids open the doors to different types of women re- 
porters. Their editors have fewer prejudices against the species. A 
girl has much more hope of walking in and landing a job than she 
has on the conservative paper. Stunt girls and beauties are welcome. 
It isn’t essential for them to know how to write if they are excep- 
tionally good at getting facts, or have the knack of finding their way 
in where other reporters are barred. But there are always a few 
who can 7 circumstances; who 

know hm tory. Norma Abrams, 

of the N\ absolutely even terms 

with the time covers a steady 



The Tabloids Flourish 197 

court beat. She is married to Jack Miley, one of the stars of the 
News. For twenty years she has been gathering up the straws of ex- 
perience that made the seasoned reporter. 

Originally she made her newspaper debut in Bellingham, Wash- 
ington, a small town on Puget Sound. She was teaching at the time 
and hated it. An uncle who had pull with the local editor got her a 
newspaper job. She was assigned to make a census of the church 
membership of the city. The Puget Sound region teems with Scandi- 
navian churches. For weeks she plodded about, getting her statistics. 
Her editor was surprised when finally she confronted him with the 
figures. They represented an incredible amount of effort. Actually 
he had cared little about getting them. It was just one of the tryout 
dodges an editor can apply to the ever unwelcome woman reporter. 

Since she had delivered the story there was nothing for him to 
do but give her a job. She got $6 a week and worked for him for 
two years until she moved on to a larger paper in Seattle. She inter- 
rupted that to do a year’s war service in France with the Red Cross 
and shortly afterwards she went on to the San Francisco Chronicle. 
In 1929 she joined the staff of the News in New York, after several 
years of newspaper work in San Francisco, two in the Hollywood 
studio publicity departments and some free-lancing. 

One of Miss Abrams’ best scoops was obtaining exclusive pictures 
of Jack Diamond and his wife in an Albany hospital after he had 
been shot at the Aratoga Inn in the spring preceding his murder. 
Pictures, to the tabloids, are as precious as an exclusive story. Dia- 
mond demanded a large sum of money to pose and he wanted it 
in advance. Miss Abrams was in Albany. She called her city desk in 
New York, but the money was not available and could not be had 
until the bank opened next morning. Diamond was too tempera- 
mental for her to feel sure that he would stick to his word. It had 
taken a week to get his consent. 

Finally, in desperation, Miss Abrams went to the manager of the 
De Witt Clinton Hotel. She could not tell him why she wanted the 
money but she insisted that she had to have it. She was in the hotel 
without luggage and he had never seen her before, but he took a 
chance and gave her the sum she wanted. The camera man pro- 
ceeded to the hospital, while Miss Abrams stayed at the hotel beside 
a telephone in case further difficulties arose. And they did. The hos- 
pital authorities refused to let the camera man in and, finally, at 
the door of Diamond’s room the state trnnners nn vuard brought 
everything to a stands 

For an hour Miss A 
trying to break dowr 
would change his min 


KfScials, 

jamond 



298 Ladies of the Press 

was up and block the whole business. Finally it was accomplished 
and the plates were on their way to New York. 

Another of the more difficult moments in Miss Abrams’ career 
was when she and Helen Nolan, of the American, waited at the 
gates of Dwight W. Morrow’s home in Englewood, knowing that 
the wedding of Colonel Lindbergh and Anne Morrow was pending. 
They had been on guard duty for six weary weeks. 

When they learned that the wedding had taken place they rushed 
to telephones and gave their news in great excitement, but they 
were coldly informed by their offices that Colonel Lindbergh had 
released the story two hours before through the Associated Press. 
They were in deep disgrace until the facts were cleared up the next 
day. No blame attached to them. The wedding had taken place prac- 
tically under their noses and they had watched the bridal pair drive 
away with no idea that it was all over. But this was the Colonel’s 
ruse to fool the reporters, whose presence at the gates he greatly 
resented. After the kidnapping of his child Miss Abrams was as- 
signed again to the Morrow home at Englewood during the days of 
false alarms and twenty-four-hour vigils. 

When Eugene Van Clief, ostensibly the second husband of Mrs. 
Frances Kirkwood, who had disposed of her first husband with a 
knife, began to be apprehensive of a similar fate, he sought the aid 
of the News. He was a quavering person in the last stages of tu- 
berculosis. Miss Abrams was assigned to deal with him. He told 
her that he was not actually the husband of Mrs. Kirkwood and that 
he was mortally afraid of her. He insisted on making an affidavit, 
so sure was he that something was going to happen to him. Miss 
Abrams kept him in tow for several days, trying to get Mrs. Kirk- 
wood put under bond to keep the peace. Then he disappeared. 
Two nights later, on August 27, 1930, a call came from her office 
asking for the affidavit. It was in a lawyer’s office and was not 
available. Van Clief had been found dead with a bullet wound in his 
heart. Mrs. Kirkwood was beside him, shot through the head. 

Miss Abrams rushed to her office and reconstructed the affidavit 
from memory. On the strength of this the News maintained for 
three editions that Mrs. Kirkwood had killed Van Clief. Actually, 
the maddened creature had finally gained peace by killing the 
woman and then himself. Miss Abrams often wondered afterwards 
if she might not have prevented this tragedy in some way. But every 
sort of crank invades a newspaper office, and the tendency is to dis- 
count th- 

On th ften is Jane Franklin, 

a blonde of the lead stories for 

the Min graduates of the Co- 



The Tabloids Flourish 299 

lumbia School of Journalism. She got her job by the somewhat 
simple device of walking in to see George McDonald, then city 
editor of the Mirror , and demanding two weeks’ free trial. She had 
it and he was satisfied. He gave her the salary she asked for and 
she landed head first on the street of adventure. 

She virtually broke up the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant in 1933 
after the Mirror had entered its own contest winner in the finals as 
“Miss New York.” The beauty telephoned to Miss Franklin that 
everything was not as it ought to be along the boardwalk. With 
a camera man Miss Franklin hurried down the next morning and 
dug around until she uncovered information indicating that the 
sponsor and co-judge of the contest had already signed up one of 
the beauties for a long period. The Mirror withdrew its entry and 
splashed the story. Miss Franklin got affidavits from several of the 
beauties, charging mismanagement. They played the story hard, 
together with a first-person narrative from one of the girls whom 
Miss Franklin had brought back to New York with her. There was 
no contest the following year, and that year’s winner, Marion Ber- 
geron, did not reap the usual rewards of being chosen Miss America. 

One of the first lessons Miss Franklin learned on the Mirror was 
the importance of getting pictures. A few weeks after she started 
she was sent to Coney Island with another reporter when Frankie 
Marlowe, the gangster, was killed. A dancer and her sweetheart 
had been arrested by the police as material witnesses. Miss Franklin 
and her companion went to see the girl’s mother. While the more 
seasoned reporters were in the kitchen begging her to tell all, Miss 
Franklin noticed a picture of a handsome youth on a small table in 
the parlor. This, she decided, must be the man under arrest whose 
picture her city editor wanted so badly. 

She expected lightning to flash and the voice of Jehovah to talk 
to her as she put the photograph under her coat and walked out. 
She was wildly excited and much frightened by her own legerde- 
main. When her colleague came out he was full of congratulations 
until they discovered that the man behind the frame was George 
Raft, then a dancer on Broadway. It was one of the standardized 
theatrical photographs that adorn the parlors of bewitched fans. 

Three years later Miss Franklin went to Elizabeth, New Jersey, 
one Sunday afternoon on the story of an Italian girl who had been 
shot by an ex-suitor, along with the man she was going to marry 


that day. After the ror priest, 

Miss Franklin went to and to 

get a photograph. She n which 

was a tough roadside s as the 

family were a hard-boi e back 



300 


Ladies of the Press 


stairs, meeting no one. There were two rooms. She could not see 
any photographs in the first she entered. She crossed the hall to the 
other room, thinking it was the dead girl’s, and was rummaging 
about when she heard a fuss on the stairs. Not finding any picture, 
she walked out and saw the father of the murdered girl— a saloon 
owner— coming up toward her. 

“I get you, you thief, I kill you,” he yelled, brandishing a knife. 
Miss Franklin thought of doing a Douglas Fairbanks and swinging 
down over his head. There was no other exit. But she knew that 
this was ridiculous. So she tried to soothe the infuriated father. 
Finally, he made such a racket cursing and screaming that some of 
his beery customers heard him and came to the rescue. But as they 
held him back, they agreed that they were silly to save her. 

She managed to get downstairs and out to the News car. Her 
rivals had considerately waited for her, expecting trouble. She was 
shaking all over. She had a somewhat similar experience in 1934 in 
Flushing over a woman who had shot her lover and killed herself. 
She walked into the house and was received by a man whom she 
could not identify. Obviously he thought her a friend of the family 
and he talked over the entire tragedy with her. 

Eventually an old woman emerged from another room. She asked 
who Miss Franklin was, and the man said he supposed she was a 
friend of the dead girl’s. 

“Well,” said the old lady, “I’ve lived with my daughter for years 
but I’ve never met you. Who are you, anyway?” 

“I’m Jane Franklin, of the Mirror” 

She set at the girl reporter with fury and tried to push her down- 
stairs. Jane quickly broke her grasp. Then she picked up all the 
loose vases and started throwing them. Her aim was bad. Jane tele- 
phoned to her desk and George Clarke, city editor, said to her, “She 
can’t do that to you. Get a cop and go back and tell her so.” 

This was much like Chapin’s observation to the reporter who had 
just been thrown downstairs. Miss Franklin didn’t bother to go 
back. 

One of her less hazardous jobs was chaperoning the fine wood- 
chopping girls of Idaho brought on to New York by Arthur Bris- 
bane to shame the metropolitan girls who smoke cigarettes and drink 
highballs instead of milk. 

Ruth Hoershgen and June de Graff, the prospective mothers of 
America" HiH 1; w up to their billing. No 

sooner inging them into New 

York, t offered them around. 

But the eir honor at the Hotel 

Warwic :ed the wood-choppers 



The Tabloids Flourish 301 

to have drinks. June rushed at hers. Miss Franklin pleaded with her 
to reject it under the circumstances. But she lost the battle. And so, 
while the two fine American girls sat at the table with their drinks 
in front of them, the dissolute New York reporter was jazzing up 
her nerves with pure cow’s milk when Mr. Brisbane arrived. 

Miss Franklin had much to do with the anti-alienation of affec- 
tions law now in effect in New York, modeled after the Nicholson 
bill of Indiana. The girls on the tabloids frequently have to drum 
up campaigns for their papers. Hettie F. Cattell, also on the Mirror , 
put across the idea of installing radios in the city hospitals and 
she crusaded to do away with some of the evils of the workmen’s 
compensation administration. 

She is the living embodiment of versatility in a newspaper woman 
and has done virtually everything on a paper except set type. She 
started in Denver under the redoubtable Josiah Ward, who broke 
in his reporters with a fabulous technique of mock terrorism. When 
she sought a job from him after six months of teaching he peered at 
her over his glasses and said, “You won’t be here two weeks but I’ll 
try you for one.” 

After two years of the Post she packed up her things and boarded 
a train for California. She found a position in Pasadena and worked 
there for nine months as hotel reporter. She put over a daily scoop 
on her rival. She haunted artists’ studios. She lived with the mother 
of an aviator and picked up technical knowledge of aerial naviga- 
tion. She wrote “Happy Hester’s Hunches” for the editorial page. 

Miss Cattell had $30 in the bank when she got a call from the Fort 
Worth Record and she started at once for Texas. There she did 
the police run, hung around City Hall, rode on the police patrol, 
and lounged in the sergeant’s office watching for news. After six 
months of this she returned to Denver and went to work on the 
Rocky Mountain News. She was doing a full page of book reviews 
and covering the theater when John C. Shaffer, owner of the Chi- 
cago Post , bought the News and Times of Denver. At the same time 
he invited her to take charge of a paper in Evanston, to be edited 
and managed solely by women. It was called the Review . This 
was one of the few experiments of the kind that has been tried and 
it was not a success. In the first place, there was no money to spend. 
Miss Cattell was constantly battling against odds. She was supposed 
to do editorials, edit all the copy and write the heads. She was office 
boy, too, because the ™npr was minted on the Chicago Post presses 
and every scrap of cc » where 

she had a desk. Not s er after 

Thursday night and t aturday 

morning. She was tol 



3 02 


Ladies of the Press 


Miss Cattell had plenty of laughs out of the experience of a paper 
with an all feminine cast. She also had much mental torture. Her 
staff was rent by envy and bickering. Mr. Shaffer’s loss when the 
paper folded up, a year after it was launched, was $ 10,000. He had 
thought that a paper run by women would get the town’s follow- 
ing. But he found that the newspaper is a curiously sexless institu- 
tion. 

When Miss Cattell moved East with her husband, Gilman Parker, 
a well-known newspaper man of nomadic instincts, she joined the 
staff of the American to do a psychoanalytical feature called “Your 
Dreams.” Then she went over to the Mirror. She is one of the most 
industrious women reporters in New York, with great capacity for 
digging out facts. 

The first woman reporter on the Mirror was Helen Hadakin, 
who had previously worked as Gil Boag’s secretary in his night 
club, the Rendez-vous. She had come from a farm in Maine and was 
the daughter of two preachers. When the club went bankrupt she 
determined to get on a paper. She had written a few stories and they 
had been accepted. She walked into the Mirror office one hot June 
afternoon. There was no one to stop her; the place was a jumble of 
workmen and editors in shirt sleeves. Mr. Howey was pointed out 
to her and she asked him for a job as a reporter. He read a piece she 
had written. 

“O.K.,” he said. “If you don’t make good as a reporter, you can 
be my secretary.” 

Miss Hadakin was anxious to do well, because she knew little 
shorthand. But she was left sitting around. No one would give her 
an assignment. So she decided to assign herself. She cut out a para- 
graph from an afternoon paper concerning a woman held on Ellis 
Island, and asked the editor to let her go out on it. He did, but neg- 
lected to add that Commissioner Henry Curran never let reporters 
interview people detained there. She soon discovered this when she 
got over to the Island. She was on her way down the clanking stairs, 
ready to weep, when she ran into an indignant man coming up. He 
spied' the clipping in her hand and said, “Isn’t it a shame?” Miss 
Hadakin agreed with him. Then she told him that she had been de- 
nied an interview with the woman. 

“Come with me,” he said at once. “You can pretend you’re my 
daughter. I have a pass.” 

It developed th at the wom an was his^wife. So she got into the 
grilled c ligrants swarm about, 

voicing rent languages. The 

woman >she were sent back. 

Miss H :*dered about, trying 



The Tabloids Flourish 303 

to pick up something else. As luck would have it, one of the men 
to whom she talked revealed that he had $100,000 worth of statuary 
lying on the docks. He had an order for a statue in Minneapolis, 
but for some reason he was being detained for investigation. He had 
photographs of all the marble nudes he had brought to America 
and he gave them to Miss Hadakin for her paper. 

Her editors cared nothing about the detained woman, but they 
were vastly interested in the statuary story. They used the pictures 
all over the back page. After that Miss Hadakin was assigned regu- 
larly to Ellis Island, one of the most difficult beats that any reporter 
could have, for publicity is frowned on there, and red tape meets 
the press at every turn. She worked at it furiously for six months. 
And she brought in many stories. She found a gold star mother who 
was held on the Island, and had an interview with the girl Firpo 
brought to America, only to be detained on the moral turpitude 
charge made famous by Lady Cathcart. Eventually Miss Hadakin 
was barred from the Island. Mr. Curran disliked her sob stories. But 
by that time she was carrying around her own camera and doing 
double duty all over town as photographer and reporter. 

When Mr. Payne became managing editor of the Mirror , one of 
his first notions was to have a woman reporter go through the Hol- 
land tunnel, which was then being built. Miss Hadakin got the as- 
signment. The engineers dressed her in overalls so that the sandhogs 
would not know she was a woman, because of their superstition 
about bad luck. Her photographer balked at going into the com- 
pression chamber, so she went down alone and saw them break 
through beneath the river from the New York to the Jersey side. 

When Mr. Howey returned to the Mirror after Mr. Payne’s 
death Miss Hadakin was assigned to the task of selecting fiction for 
serialization. She recommended Ursula Parrott’s Ex-Wife and Vina 
Delmar’s Bad Girl. When Mr. Gauvreau took over the managing 
editor’s desk, he gave her the title of feature editor, for she was 
then writing a page feature every day, as well as editing and making 
up all the features. She now selects the serials and short stories, and 
reads more than thirty books a month. There was much apprehen- 
sion when she took on The Postman Always Rings Twice and Feb- 
ruary Hill. This was strong fare for newspaper consumption. But 
both stories proved to be good circulation getters. 

For a time she was the only woman make-up editor in the com- 
posing room and was regarded with ^professional suspicion. Her 
orders had to be rek a -up man 

on the feature page. s are po 

longer the step^ r * V posters 

on the new 



304 Ladies of the Tress 

Many of the lead stories in the Mirror from day to day are done 
on rewrite by Ruth Phillips, who has also found time to write three 
novels in the last few years. Miss Phillips comes from northern 
New York, was educated in Buffalo, ran away from school at the 
age of thirteen, piled her hair in a majestic mound and became 
state editor of the Buffalo Enquirer at $7 a week. After a whirl on 
most of the Buffalo papers she returned to school, went to college 
and earned $25 a week writing two pages of fiction for the Sunday 
Express . Then she became paralyzed and during her two years at 
home she earned $80 a week writing features for the Express. 

After a trip abroad she settled in New York. Walking up Fifth 
Avenue one afternoon she came face to face with a chimpanzee out 
for a stroll by itself. She followed it home, wrote the story and sent 
it to the Telegraph , which was then going through its New Yorker 
phase under the editorship of Gene Fowler. Next morning she was 
asked to do a daily column at a good salary. Ring Lardner and Lois 
Long were two of her co-workers. She wrote “Along Came Ruth” 
until she was fired one day with fourteen others. Then Walter 
Howey hired her to work for the Mirror , where she has been for 
the last seven years. 

When Mr. Payne bought the second serial rights to a novel called 
Fame , he was sufficiently interested in the talent of the bright young 
author, Micheline Keating, to give her a job on his staff. Micheline 
was one of the more dazzling members of the profession. She was 
on the stage when she turned to newspaper work. During her school 
years she had studied dancing and dramatics. Her mother, Mrs. Pearl 
Keating, was in the theater and it had never occurred to Micheline 
that there was any other career for her. She had just appeared in 
Lionel Barrymore’s Laugh Clown Laugh when she tried Park Row. 
She was soon in the thick of big news stories. She covered the 
Dwyer bootleg trial and the raising of the submarine S51. She in- 
terviewed “Little Augie” the week before he was betrayed by Legs 
Diamond and murdered. Then in rapid succession she worked on 
the Snyder-Gray trial, the Peaches Browning farce, the Cry Baby 
Bandits trials, Queen Marie’s visit to America, Lindbergh’s trans- At- 
lantic flight, and the Valentino funeral, one of the mob scenes of 
America. She was present at the two Dempsey-Tunney fights and 
was assigned to the International Polo Games in 1927 and 1930. 
Dan Parker borrowed her from the city department to cover the 
matches, as she was familiar with the crame, the horses and the 
players. She arr estbury, Long Island, 

in high spirits ai $s seat. She had been 

there only a few who was handling the 



The Tabloids Flourish 305 

publicity for the Polo Writers’ Association, walked up to her and 
said that she would have to leave, as the polo writers had agreed that 
no women were to be allowed in the press section. 

Miss Keating insisted that she was working press and not a spec- 
tator. He told her politely but firmly that this made no difference. 
She was a female, and females were not allowed in the press section 
for any reason whatever. She was indignant and appealed to Harry 
Cross of the Herald Tribune , who at the time was president of the 
Polo Writers’ Association. He went into consultation with several 
of his colleagues and they came to the conclusion that it would be 
a bad breach of etiquette to allow her to sit with them after making 
so positive a ruling. 

Miss Keating stormed and raged and said that she had to get her 
story in for a 7 p.m. deadline. They went into another huddle 
and returned with the suggestion that although she could not sit 
with them, there was nothing to prevent her from parking herself 
in the spectators’ section next to the press. They got her a ticket for 
a seat and she wrote her story balancing her typewriter on her 
knees and handing it across a two-foot-wide aisle to where her tele- 
graph operator sat comfortably with the working press. 

After two years on the Mirror Miss Keating switched to King 
Features, where she turned out copy for the Saturday Journal and 
the Hearst Sunday editions throughout the country. It was inside 
work and less exciting than being on the street. So she turned 
her thoughts to fiction again, and when her second book, City Wise , 
was published and she had sold some short stories, she decided to 
give up newspaper writing altogether. 







[ 309 3 


Chapter XXIV 

COVERING THE PRESIDENT’S WIFE 

W hen Mrs. Hoover invited the Washington newspaper 
women to tea at her house on R Street after the nomina- 
tion of her husband, they found a photograph of Mrs. 
Coolidge displayed on a table. By chance, each reporter’s glance 
seemed to light on it with unmistakable affection. 

Mrs. Hoover watched them with interest. “If, four years from 
now,” she observed at last, “even one of you looks at my picture 
as you all seem to look at Mrs. Coolidge’s, I shall feel I haven’t lived 
in vain.” 

Sooner or later every President’s wife has to make up her mind 
what to do about the women of the press, and they must abide by 
her decision. She cannot escape them altogether, but they are singu- 
larly dependent on her good graces in getting their news. Until 
Mrs. Roosevelt entered the White House, the going was extremely 
thin. They were forced to admire the President’s wife from a dis- 
tance, describe her clothes, take note of her flowers, have a last- 
minute glance at her dinner table before a state function, see her 
always as a smiling shadow at her husband’s side. They never got 
anything that even approximated news, or penetrated beyond the 
outer fringes of her official reserve. It was neither vanity nor curi- 
osity that drove them to ask for more. They were simply doing 
their job. 

From this desolation they entered the fat lands of Canaan in 1932. 
The transition was so swift that the old guard could not cope with 
it. Mrs. George F. Richards, a veteran political writer who had 
known a number of Presidential wives, went to Mrs. Roosevelt’s 
first press conference, took a look at the incense burners seated on 
the floor and decided that she never would attend another. She was 
the last woman in the Press Gallery to sport a tippet, jet beads and 
a Victorian bonnet. She wrote a sound column signed “Richards” 
for a string of Nev r naners. Had jlie lined -m little longer 

the chances are she! 
publican reporters* 



jio Ladies of the Press 

For the scoffers changed their tune; the enemy surrendered with 
astonishing speed. Mrs. Roosevelt bowled over reporters of all per- 
suasions— those who liked dignity and the slow tempo; and those 
who could stand a bit of dash. She stepped into the White House 
with a fully developed knowledge of newspaper needs. She did not 
have to grope or fumble in putting her press relations on a sound 
basis. She shunned halfway measures and made a dramatic move that 
was not a sop to their vanity so much as a sensible plan for the dis- 
semination of news. 

She established her own press corps; treated its members as honor- 
able human beings; encouraged a barrage of questions; and answered 
them all with candor, while reserving the same off-the-record rule 
as the President. In so far as she could, she put them on the same 
footing as the men who covered her husband. The only thing she 
could not do for them was to give them much front-page news, al- 
though here, too, she went one better than any of her predecessors. 

The change in technique was overwhelming to writers who had 
been frozen out from one administration to another; who had had 
to fight over such petty matters as dinner table lists, flower deco- 
rations and the kind of gown the President's wife would wear at a 
state function. Mrs. Roosevelt showed how simple, how direct, how 
effective, the other method could be. Only newspaper people under- 
stand that she does not assemble her correspondents to publicize 
herself. She does it as a convenience for them. Tlh general effect 
is to create good-will, but the actual benefits to her are negligible. 
Time and again the newspaper women have come away from her 
conferences without a line for publication. Few good stories have 
originated at these gatherings. TTie only important beats were on 
the decisions to use beer and wines at the White House table. Some 
of the busier women in the Press Gallery do not take time to attend 
them, feeling that they are not a vital source of news. 

Yet the access is there. They always know that if there is any 
question they want to put to the President’s wife, they can walk in 
on Monday morning and get a straightforward answer. This makes 
for sound and honest relations with the press. Mrs. Roosevelt real- 
ized from the start that it was better to see the reporters in person 
than to turn them over to secretaries and housekeepers for harmless 
details on rhe functioning of the nation’s chief household. She saw 
them as a valid link with the public, and she believes that the public 
has a right to know what is going on in the White House. Funda- 
mentally her aooroach is based on her absence of fear where 
publicity : felt that shocking 

things wo porters. They had 

an exaggej Vhen Mrs. Roose- 



Covering the President’s Wife 31 1 

velt swept into the White House like a strong April breeze, she 
blew the cobwebs of tradition out the window, invited the press 
upstairs, showed them where the President slept, let them look at 
him having his tea, and generally made them feel that they were 
welcome. 

She did more than give them news; she made news for them. 
They traveled with her by plane, motor car and train. They talked 
to her in coal mines and swimming pools and on Puerto Rican hill- 
sides and by her own somewhat movable hearth. She invited them 
into her car and drove about with them in taxis. She telephoned to 
them when she was in inaccessible spots, so that they could get their 
stories on the wire; she kept one from scooping another; and she 
took excellent care not to scoop them herself in any of her writ- 
ings. They not only knew what she did but what she thought. They 
dined at her table and sometimes gave her advice on matters affect- 
ing their craft. At a pinch they could call up the White House and 
get her on the telephone— an unprecedented means of access to a 
President’s wife. She took an interest in their families, their ambi- 
tions, their work, their clothes. 

And the bonanza still goes on. Never was there such a gift from 
heaven for the working press. When the New Deal ends and 
another President’s wife takes over, will the newspaper women ever 
again be content with mere crumbs from the White House table? 
Won’t they hanker after the abundant days when they were on 
chummy terms with the President’s family? Or will Mrs. Roose- 
velt’s successors see that she had a good idea and follow suit? 

In the nineties they took notes on the handsome Mrs. Grover 
Cleveland shopping for gloves. By the turn of the century society 
editors were clamoring for some sort of aid on state functions. The 
days when they dashed about from house to house in victorias, 
asking the guests what they would wear, were passing. From the 
moment Theodore Roosevelt took office the White House bubbled 
with life. Newspaper correspondents were called in at the whim of 
the President. A sparkling daughter made news by the day, but the 
women reporters got no innings then. Even the wedding of Alice to 
Nicholas Longworth in 1906 was a job for men to cover, with few 
exceptions. 

However, the bars were let down an inc 
ployed the first of the social secretaries. Sh 
so that at least the society editors were appe 
each list there usually appeared an item 
brief note saying that the President’s wife 
and pearls, and Ali 
of the evening hap] 



312 Ladies of the Press 

James Gordon Bennett believed that the attire of the President’s 
wife was a matter of absorbing interest to the women of America. 
In his opinion, one of the few good reasons for having a woman on 
a paper was so that she could be on hand every four years to write 
something about the wardrobe of an incoming President’s wife. The 
idea has given newspaper women many bad moments. 

, Mrs. Taft continued to send out dinner lists but dropped the 
items about flowers and dress. She was a lavish hostess. Her salads 
were as famous in their way as Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Sun- 
day night scrambled eggs, but news about the White House was 
scanty during her time. She made no overtures to the writing 
women of the capital. Yet there were many gorgeous functions dur- 
ing the Taft administration. The gala event was the last of the pre- 
war New Year’s Day receptions, when the diplomats of the old 
regime turned out in full fig with the gleam and clank of a dying 
era. The Russian Ambassador galloped up to the White House door 
behind two horses and a fur-turbaned Cossack footman. The diplo- 
mats of Germany and Austria wore swinging capes, high boots, hel- 
mets with eagles and flashing silver and gold. None of them knew 
it at the time but the days of pomp and circumstance were over. 

During the Wilson era there was practically no entertaining, after 
the first flurry of double functions for the representatives of the 
Allied nations and their enemies. Neither Woodrow Wilson nor 
either of his wives had much contact with the press. 

Then came Mrs. Harding, who tried for some rapprochement 
but feared its consequences and did not carry it far. She talked 
freely at first to Jane Dixon, of the New York Telegram , whom 
she had known in Ohio. But she sooned learned that she could not 
single out one reporter for her confidence. She was the first of the 
President’s wives to receive groups of women, and after a serious 
illness she invited some of the reporters upstairs to her private 
quarters for an informal tea, receiving them in a rose velvet negli- 
gee. This was the first time that most of them had been upstairs 
in the White House or had seen the President’s wife in informal 
attire. 

When Mrs. Harding visited New York to buy her inauguration 
gown, a score of women reporters were led a merry chase, trying 
to cover her on a shopping expedition. She was staying at the Ritz- 
Carlton Hotel. They had no clue to her movements. She refused to 
see them for a moment. None of her staff would divulge a word of 
information. By mere chance they learned at the end of the day the 
bare fact that she n March 4th, and 

the information This trivial bit 

of news was the : the woman who 



Covering the President's Wife 313 

was about to step into the White House. It was played up on 
the front pages of the most conservative papers, illustrating their 
eagerness to have something about her, and the trifling results. 
Yet Mrs. Harding had no intention of harassing anyone. She was 
simply carrying on a tradition. The wives of the Presidents had al- 
ways understood that it was better to bow and smile, surround 
themselves with flowers and beware of the least civility to a re- 
porter. 

On the night Mrs. Coolidge arrived in Washington from New 
England, she was met at the station by a score of women reporters. 
She made an instantaneous hit. She was vivid, glowing, natural and 
responsive. She seemed to be genuinely glad that she was on her way 
to the White House. 

The question of clothes came to. the fore the day before inau- 
guration, when the women reporters asked Mrs. Frank Steams, her 
closest friend, what Mrs. Coolidge’s wardrobe was like. 

“I’ll show you,” said Mrs. Steams, without a moment’s hesitation. 
“It’s all here.” 

She went to a clothes closet and pulled out five or six dresses— a 
red homespun, four or five simple day frocks and one evening gown. 
They were busy taking notes when Mrs. Coolidge appeared at the 
door of the suite. She saw her clothes spread out on the bed, with a 
mob of strangers hanging over them. For a moment her face was the 
picture of dismay. Then she laughed and joined the group. “Good- 
ness!” she said. “What’s going on?” 

She was getting her first taste of what it meant to be the Presi- 
dent’s wife. 

“Do you like entertaining?” she was asked. 

“We haven’t entertained much,” she replied. “We never could 
afford it, but I’m sure I shall enjoy it.” 

But even before she entered the White House Mrs. Coolidge 
began to feel the binding strings. She was spontaneous by nature 
and, like Mrs. Roosevelt, believed in doing the kind and impulsive 
thing. A magazine sent a newspaper woman to get a brief state- 
ment from her under her own name. She received the proposal 
with favor. She was on the point of agreeing when Mr. Coolidge 
walked into the room, heard what was going on, and put his foot 
down. After that, Mrs. Coolidge conformed to all the traditional 
customs and although she was beloved by the newspaper women, 
her relations with them were as conventional as those of her pred- 
ecessors. 

She worked ah 
sent by messenge 
sionally, she tool 


Dinner lists were 
press to tea occa- 
mac in the May- 



314 Ladies of the Tress 

flower \ she gave a garden party for them. But until Mrs. Franklin D. 
Roosevelt’s time the newspaper teas at the White House were 
merely a social courtesy— a recognition of the existence of a group 
of newspaper women in the capital. There was little consciousness 
of the women reporters as individuals. They were merely the sym- 
bol of a powerful force in public life. If Mrs. Coolidge had a favor- 
ite, it was Cora Rigby of the Christian Science Monitor. But they 
always came away from contact with Mrs. Coolidge warmed by 
her presence. She had a genius for avoiding the pitfalls of social 
life and she left Washington with nothing but good-will on all 
sides. This extended to the press, although as a source of news she 
was negative. 

Mrs. Hoover looked unhappy the day she entered the White 
House and relieved the day she left it. She was a tactful hostess but 
a problem for the press. It was difficult to get a dinner list in time 
from the Hoover household, as they frequently invited guests at the 
last minute and the lists could not be sent out until they were com- 
plete. Mrs. Hoover figured little in the news except in connection 
with her Girl Scout activities, and on the few occasions that group 
interviews were arranged, the reporters were primed on the ques- 
tions they might ask and were specifically warned against branching 
out in any direction except scouting. 

It was scarcely possible for Mrs. Hoover to steer clear of the lime- 
light entirely, for she had several important guests from abroad while 
she was in the White House. She entertained Ramsay MacDonald 
and his daughter Ishbel. And she had the ticklish problem of the 
King and Queen of Siam, involving many worries over Eastern eti- 
quette. They did not stay at the White House, but Princess Svasti, 
the Queen’s mother, went whirling along in her car for her official 
call, smoking a fine cheroot. Mrs. Hoover took her over Mount Ver- 
non, but the royal feet hurt and early American history was boring 
to the Oriental mind. She sat on a Colonial sofa and would not 
budge. All these problems were met by Mrs. Hoover with tact and 
subtlety. 

But she always seemed at a loss with the press. A reporter out 
after news got short shrift from her. While crossing the country on 
a campaign trip, she might invite the one woman reporter on the 
train to have tea with her in her private car, but there never was a 
line of news, beyond a paragraph on the flowers received at the last 
stop. However, when her guard was broken down, she could be frank 
and entertaining with the press. At a tea she gave for them in the 
Oval Room of the White House fore the President’s 

term ended, she sp< ys in China, of the 

Boxer siege, of som ierbert Hoover had 



Covering the President's Wife 315 

had. She was also at her best when she entertained them at Rapidan, 
because of her passion for the outdoors. They tramped through the 
woods, lunched under the trees and almost felt that they were 
welcome. 

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt's press relations were a success from 
the start, because they were founded on mutual trust. 

“I was brought up under a very wise newspaper man— Louis 
Howe,” she told the newspaper women. “He has always assured 
me that there are no higher ethics than those of newspaper people. 
My confidence has been betrayed only once in my life, and I never 
saw the reporter again.” 

Two nights before inauguration Mrs. Roosevelt met the women 
reporters in a flower-filled suite in the Mayflower Hotel. It was the 
usual scene on these occasions— a mob interview, with some sage 
questions being asked and others equally daffy, and in the middle of 
it all, a smiling figure who might turn into any sort of news possi- 
bility. 

She was better known to reporters than most of the women who 
had preceded her in the White House, for she had figured actively 
in club work in New York. The general impression was one of 
great frankness and affability. Mrs. Roosevelt spotted old friends, 
registered new names and faces, and gave a little more information 
than they had come to expect on these occasions. But they had no 
conception of what was coming. They were in the usual skeptical 
frame of mind. The wives of other Presidents had shaken hands with 
them cordially before inauguration, then had mounted the stairs of 
the White House to their private quarters and closed the doors be- 
hind them sharply. It was a legend that a Brooklyn newspaper 
woman, by some unknown strategy, had got into the kitchen of the 
White House once and had tried to count the pots and pans. 

On the afternoon of inauguration Mrs. Roosevelt invited them all 
to tea, although in the past the first afternoon had always been anti- 
climactic, devoted to relatives and new adjustments. The newspaper 
women gathered in the East Room. As they filed in, Mrs. Roosevelt 
said to one after another, “How nice to see a familiar face.” The 
next meeting was held in the Red Room. There were still some 
skeptics who thought that it could not keep up. The die-hard Re- 
publicans did not feel that they could warm to the Democratic 
invasion. But Emma Bugbee, of the New York Herald Tribune , 
although a Republican, did not belong to either class. She had 
known Mrs. Roo r k and admired her. 

Emma lingered od-by. She had cov- 
ered inauguration desk in New York. 



3 16 Ladies of the Press 

“I’ve always been crazy to know what things were like upstairs,” 
said Miss Bugbee, without any special guile. 

A good New Englander, fond of the institutions of her country, 
she had great interest in the White House. She had picketed it 
during suffrage days, attended diplomatic receptions, seen the Easter 
eggs rolled on the lawn. 

“Oh, I’ll show you upstairs any time,” said Mrs. Roosevelt cor- 
dially. “Come and have lunch with me some day.” 

“That would be wonderful,” said Miss Bugbee, “but my office 
has called me in. I’m leaving to-morrow.” 

“Well, come to lunch to-morrow and bring all the New York 
newspaper girls with you.” 

That was the beginning of the new order. After they had lunched, 
Mrs. Roosevelt took them on a tour of the White House. “Now, 
this is Franklin’s room,” she said, “and here is where Anna sleeps.” 

They went from room to room. They inspected pictures, chintzes, 
hangings, favorite books, bibelots, antiques, rugs, photographs; they 
got an accurate picture of the home life of the President’s family. 

“May we write about this?” demanded Dorothy Ducas, of Inter- 
national News Service. 

“Oh, yes, why not?” said Mrs. Roosevelt. “Anything you see is 
all right to write about.” 

So the sacred precincts, never so thoroughly invaded by the press 
before, were described in a personal, chatty way next day and there 
was no repercussion from any quarter. Instead, the Monday morning 
eleven o’clock press conferences became a firmly established insti- 
tution. 

Newspaper women of all types assembled to cope with this new 
aspect of political life in Washington. The first-string news girls 
came on the run. The feature writers took leisurely notes. The so- 
ciety editors, from the Cave Dwellers’ monoliths to the gossip 
columnists, saw that things were going to be cozy. All the writing 
women with any suitable link of communication were admitted. 
They made a gathering of nearly seventy-five. There were not 
enough chairs to go round. The surplus squatted on the floor. This 
became a subject of jest. A few of the Fundamentalists didn’t like it. 
They saw the dignity of the White House tottering. A gibing car- 
toon appeared in one of the papers. The President made a jesting 
remark about the newspaper women sitting at his wife’s feet. 

More chairs were installed, but great informality still prevails. If 
someone wants to sit on the arm of a chair, squat on the floor, or 
take a seat beside ;re is never the 

slightest objection, a le sensitive now 

about the ridicule tl nces get smaller 



Covering the President’s Wife 317 

as time goes on. The group now numbers from twenty to thirty. 
The curiosity has worn off. The girls who do straight politics 
cannot spend an hour and a half in chit-chat when there is no 
story in prospect. But there is always the possibility that Mrs. 
Roosevelt may stun them with something sensational. 

They are all quite at home in the White House now. They wait 
confidently in the Green Room, knowing that the usher will open 
the iron gates to the formal stairway and let them march upstairs. 
At the west end of the second floor corridor they walk around a 
screen and enter the region where Mrs. Roosevelt breakfasts, has 
informal teas and holds her press conferences. During the Hoover 
term it was filled with potted palms. Now it is much like anybody’s 
living-room, with comfortable sofas and large easy chairs, plenty of 
low tables and such cheerful signs of life as the family knitting, the 
current magazines, a toy or two and masses of flowers. 

Mrs. Roosevelt comes in after everyone has arrived, Mrs. Malvina 
Scheider with her. She is usually glowing with life and vitality and 
the conference takes on animation from her mere presence. When 
she rides at nine o’clock she comes in wearing jodhpurs, a sweater 
or white silk shirt, and the blue bandeau she prefers to a hat. Other 
days she is likely to be wearing a printed silk or a dark blue frock 
with a white collar. She often brings candy and on sizzling days she 
may order lemonade for her guests. 

There is no such thing as crashing one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s con- 
ferences, although it is never difficult for a properly accredited 
correspondent to get entree. The one taboo is on men. This was a 
facer for the pampered gentlemen of the press who cover Washing- 
ton. Women reporters have equal rating with men at the President’s 
conferences, but no man may invade Mrs. Roosevelt’s gatherings— 
a strong gesture on behalf of the women writers, who have had 
few privileges in Washington. Her idea has borne fruit. She has 
raised their status and their pay; she has created new jobs for them. 
But some of the extreme feminists protested the point. They argued 
that they had fought for years to be received on a footing with 
men. Why, then, should men be barred from their conferences? 
However, the rule stands, and has not been violated. 

It meant that the United Press, which is averse to women, had to 
look around and find a woman correspondent. The choice was 
Ruby Black, one of the group of five newspaper women who are 
nearest to Mrs. Roosevelt. The others are Lorena Hickok, formerly 
of the Associated Press; Miss Bugbee, Mrs. Genevieve Forbes Her- 
rick, magazine of the Chicago Tri- 

bune, and Bess 

Mrs. Roosevc 


ution of news, how- 



3 18 Ladies of the Press 

ever. She may address some of the reporters by their first names and 
have them to luncheon, tea or dinner more often than others, but she 
has handled the entire group with such tact and trust that there 
have been no complaints in any quarter. The general understanding 
is that she will not discuss politics in any shape or form, but her alert 
mind, ranging from one subject to another, often throws off a dart 
on political problems. In this way her conferences are valuable as 
background for the women writers, as well as for spot news. They 
sometimes fancy that they get an inkling of the President’s mind 
through hers. They know that she constantly clips out pieces from 
papers and magazines which she thinks he ought to see, and puts 
them on his bedside table, along with selected letters from her cor- 
respondence. 

Her own interests are broad. There is no telling which way the 
interview may veer. The President’s taste in reading at one moment; 
decentralization of industry at another. She freely discusses educa- 
tion, pensions, minimum wages, good housing, recreation, subsist- 
ence farms, factory projects and all kinds of labor problems. She 
likes to introduce a woman engaged in some useful public work and 
let her speak for herself. Frances Perkins was one of the first to be 
launched in this way at the press conference. 

Mrs. Roosevelt talks more freely now than she did in the begin- 
ning but she says less for quotation. She has had a few lessons in the 
dangers of speaking as the President’s wife. One was her comment 
on the Hauptmann verdict. This remark was made while she was 
away from her Washington corps. Otherwise, the chances are it 
never would have got into print. The off-the-record idea barricades 
her at every turn. She was warned by a prominent publisher that she 
should not hold these press conferences. She was told that they 
would be full of dynamite. But she went ahead and nothing has 
happened to prove her wrong. There have been few tactical blun- 
ders, although she has discussed practically every subject under the 
sun with reporters. 

This is partly because a protective system has grown up around 
her that keeps the wrong sort of information from getting out. This 
may have damaged her news value materially but probably has saved 
her embarrassment. However, no woman needs this sheltering touch 
less than Mrs. Roosevelt. She is an experienced politician and rarely 
says anything she needs to regret. She is candid without being 
indiscreet. 

On one subject or 
and that is the difSc 
shield Anna Dahl fr< 


off the record, 
every effort to 
ivorce and sub- 



Covering the President's Wife 319 

sequent marriage to John Boettiger. This was one of the more deli- 
cate moments in White House history, and Mrs. Roosevelt recog- 
nized it as such. 

There are times when she would be more frank than she is per- 
mitted to be and not worry about it, but the moment she grows 
spontaneous, a vigilant newspaper woman is sure to interrupt and 
say, “That is off the record, isn’t it?” Mrs. Roosevelt, never slow to 
apprehend, immediately catches on and says yes. She is not supposed 
to be quoted without permission. If there is any doubt about any- 
thing she has said, Mrs. Scheider reads back her notes. Once, when 
Stephen Early wanted to bar one of the newspaper girls because she 
had used something which presumably was said in confidence, Mrs. 
Roosevelt studied the transcript herself, decided that she had not 
made it clear that her statement was off the record, and upheld the 
girl. 

But she was definitely annoyed when a story was published giving 
a false impression of her interest in the Val Kill furniture factory. 
The inference was that it was profit-making for her, which was far 
from being the truth. Aside from these two breaks, there have been 
singularly few ill results from her absolute honesty with the press. 
She never grows irritable, as the President has done a few times in 
handling the correspondents. 

The newspaper men were apt to scoff at these all-feminine gath- 
erings in the beginning. They were glad “the girls” were having a 
good time. Poor things, they needed it. There was precious little 
else for them to do in Washington. But one day the girls staggered 
them by springing a story that they all would like to have had. It 
was the announcement on April 3, 1933, that beer would be served 
at the White House. 

This was a nice front-page beat for the feminine contingent. It 
caused a ripple among their White House colleagues. Carlyle Bar- 
geron, who was then on the Washington Herald , pointed out that 
the girls seemed to be getting the news and that smart editors should 
do something about it. This was followed by another coup when 
the question of wines and hard liquor came up in January, 1934. 

Again they stole a march on the men. As they walked in to the 
Monday conference, Raymond Muir, chief usher, handed them all 
a five-line statement, announcing that wines— preferably American 
brands— would appear on the White House table. They were told to 
hold this announcement until the conference was ended, but one 
newspaper woman misunderstood. She went off in a rush to telephone 
the news to her 1 ion when the others 

discovered what 1 Loosevelt grasped the 

situation. She sen nd Mrs. Marie Man- 



3 20 Ladies of the Tress 

ning Gasch, who represents International News Service, to her pri- 
vate telephones. As they all represented press services, it would mean 
most to them in loss of time. She held up the conference until they 
had time to relay the news to their offices. 

This is more or less typical of her thoughtful attitude to the 
press, and she does not let a bit of formality stand in the way if the 
newspaper women are pressed for time. The policy of a reporter’s 
paper makes no difference to her, and the doorman of the Herald 
Tribune has witnessed the astonishing spectacle of the First Lady 
delivering Miss Bugbee at the door in a taxi. Such dizzy doings had 
never before been seen at the threshold of this Republican strong- 
hold. 

The second Sunday Mrs. Roosevelt was in the White House she 
called on Cornelia Jane, Ruby Black’s baby daughter. She telephoned 
the night before to ask if she might stop in when she was out 
motoring next day. When she arrived, she promptly got down on 
the floor and played with the baby. Later Cornelia was invited to 
Sistie Dahl’s birthday party at the White House. No newspaper 
woman’s baby daughter ever had a more dashing debut at her first 
party, with the President of the United States popping crackers for 
her. 

Mrs. Roosevelt is interested in the pleasures and sorrows of her 
corps of correspondents. She is the first to sympathize with them 
when anything goes wrong; the first to rejoice when they get raises, 
or the baby cuts a tooth, or they put over a neat piece of writing. 
She has been known to send an exhausted reporter to Campobello 
or Warm Springs to recuperate. When her Scottie “Meggie” bit 
Bess Furman while she was giving her a lift in her car, Mrs. Roose- 
velt took her to the hospital for treatment and banished the pet dog. 

But the big adventure for five of them was her trip to Puerto 
Rico and the Virgin Islands in 1933. Miss Hickok, Miss Bugbee, Miss 
Furman, Miss Black and Miss Ducas were her fellow adventurers 
and it was something new in the way of a newspaper assignment. 
The flying corps moved fast, covered more than 6,000 miles, pic- 
nicked on tropical hillsides, circled in fog, went from one recep- 
tion to another, and were heavily feted. Miss Black is the Washing- 
ton correspondent of La Democracia , a Puerto Rican paper, and her 
name is as well known there as Mrs. Roosevelt’s. She speaks some 
Spanish, which was useful for the rest of the party. 

It was a hectic as well as a festive jaunt. They got little or no 
sleep, but Mrs. Roosevelt was never tired. After two weeks of it, 
the correspondents, nerves on edge, en gage d in an argument at an 
airport early one n wanted to charge 

them excess on then isted and irritated. 



Covering the President's Wife 321 

It was pitch dark outside. The local officials were bidding Mrs. 
Roosevelt a formal farewell. They were laden down with flowers, 
and elegant speeches in Spanish poured from their lips. 

Through all the din Mrs. Roosevelt saw that her press following 
was in difficulty. Without a moment’s hesitation she detached herself 
from the local potentates, walked over to where they were arguing 
fiercely with the officials, and offered her help. 

“Is there any trouble?” she demanded. “If any of you needs any 
money, I can let you have any amount you want.” 

They explained that they were merely arguing over principle. 

The worst hour for the correspondents was when they ran into 
fog between Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince. They flew in 
circles for an hour. It began to look like a story. First Lady Lost in 
Fog. They begged to be allowed to send a bulletin by the airplane’s 
radio. But they were told that no commercial messages could be 
accepted. Bess Furman wrote bulletins feverishly, feeling that if they 
crashed, the entire story of their last moments would be found 
clutched in her hand. 

“Why do you write so much?” asked Mrs. Roosevelt, interestedly 
watching her. 

Miss Furman could not think of a reason, except that it was force 
of habit for an A.P. reporter to feed bulletins to the wire. They 
turned back to San Pedro. By the time they got there the suspense 
was over, but there was still a story to file on Mrs. Roosevelt 
circling blindly in the fog, the plane in danger, and all the accom- 
panying details. But when they settled down in the harbor, the sea 
was so choppy that they could not get near the wharf. Bill, the 
steward, was surrounded by three shrieking reporters, determined 
to get their copy off, demanding that they get ashore. Miss Bugbee, 
having plenty of time to catch her deadline, did not share in the 
frenzy of her colleagues, all working for rival press services. 

Bill rose to the occasion. He climbed out on a bobbing pontoon, 
yelled for the skipper of a small rowboat, and handed him the press 
dispatches, with minute instructions as to what he was to do with 
them. They were to go to the cable man, pronto! After so much 
furore, the story seemed tame in print, but it was exciting enough 
for the reporters covering the President’s wife. 

When they got home from the trip they were all in a state of 
exhaustion, except Mrs. Roosevelt, who was still in the pink of 
condition. None of them can match her on physical vitality. When 
they followed her to Reedsville, Virginia, to see her homestead 
project, they tra w1 ^ "icrht at civ nVlnck the next morning, 
motored more th ke fourteen speeches. 

At the end of tl tired, but she wanted 



32 2 Ladies of the Press 

to chat with them on the train. So they all went on talking until 
eleven o’clock. Then she got up to go. They told her they were not 
surprised that she should want to get some rest at last. “Oh,” she 
said blithely, “Malvina and I will do a magazine piece before I go to 
sleep. I’m not tired.” 

Covering Mrs. Roosevelt, then, requires health, strength and lively 
footwork. She is never tired, never bored. The reporters sometimes 
are. The nearest she has ever come to showing fatigue was at a dull 
spelling bee between newspaper women and congressional wives. 
She was seen to yawn. It was so unusual that everyone noticed it. 

There is no formality about the way Mrs. Roosevelt invites her 
press following to break bread with her at the White House; she 
does not feel that because she invites one she must invite all the 
others. This would be a worry to most hostesses in her position, but 
she never gives it a thought. She simply follows her impulses. It is 
true that the invitations fall more thickly in some quarters than in 
others. This is based largely on personal friendship. Newspaper 
husbands often accompany their wives to the informal Sunday 
night suppers at which the eggs are scrambled personally by Mrs. 
Roosevelt and the conversation is good. 

The newspaper women have profited enormously by her attitude 
toward them. They have gained prestige, and their usefulness to 
their papers and press services has increased, not to mention the 
personal satisfaction they feel at having fireside standing in the 
White House. To have such a large body of newspaper women 
consistently on one’s side takes a somewhat subtle combination of 
tact, intelligence and what is commonly known as having the goods. 
Some admire Mrs. Roosevelt more than others, but without excep- 
tion they find her generous, fair and open-minded. 

They may be a little flattered. They may like to think that the 
President’s wife calls them by their first names, invites them to 
luncheon, seeks their advice, and lets them in on weighty secrets. 
They have had so many years of neglect at the White House that 
they welcome a little warmth. But at bottom, the answer lies in her 
own integrity. And they know, as reporters, that her technique is 
enough to make them shout hosannas, from the professional stand- 
point alone. 





Chapter XXV 

INVADING THE PRESS GALLERY 


J ane Grey Swisshelm, an invincible damsel who started life 
as a child prodigy, quoted the New Testament at the age of 
three, badgered Daniel Webster, helped to drive Governor Low- 
rie of Minnesota out of his mind, and caused havoc in the hos- 
pitals during the Civil War, was the pioneer who first opened the 
Press Gallery to the woman correspondent. 

Mrs. Swisshelm had no intention of lingering in the halls of gov- 
ernment. She merely wanted to open the door to show that it could 
be done. One day was sufficient for her purpose. She was in the 
capital on a junket, having persuaded Horace Greeley to buy her 
Washington letters at $5 a column. After seeing the town she felt 
the urge to do something spectacular before returning to Pitts- 
burgh: 

There was yet one innovation I wanted to make, although 
my stay in Washington would necessarily be short. No woman 
had ever had a place in the Congressional reporters’ gallery. 
This door I wanted to open to them, so I called on Vice-Presi- 
dent Fillmore and asked him to assign me a seat in the Senate 
Gallery. He was much surprised and tried to dissuade me. The 
place would be very unpleasant for a lady, would attract atten- 
tion, I would not like it; but he gave me the seat. I occupied it 
one day, greatly to the surprise of the Senators, the reporters, 
and others on the floor and in the Galleries; but felt that the 
novelty would soon wear off, and that women would work 
there and win bread without annoyance. 

Mrs. Swisshelm’s prophecy was correct. That was in 1850. Today 
the newspaper women sit on terms of comparative equality with the 
men in the Press Gallery. They are few in number but they happen 
to be good workmen. The result is that they have overcome most, 
although not all, of the moss-grown prejudice. 

Jane was thirty-five when she stormed Washington— an aboli- 
tionist, a feminist isband. Her invasion 

of the Press Gall event of her trip to 



324 Ladies of the Press 

Washington was her attack on Daniel Webster through the columns 
of her paper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter . Scouting for news, 
she unearthed a dark secret about him. “Then I knew why I had 
come to Washington,” she confessed. “I gathered the principal facts 
of his life at the Capitol and submitted them to a correspondent who 
advised me to keep quiet, as others had done.” 

Mrs. Swisshelm knew that her expos6 would not be applauded by 
Mr. Greeley, and she liked to bask in the “social distinction and the 
courtesy” which her connection with the Tribune commanded. So 
she wrestled with her Calvinist conscience but finally decided to 
expose Mr. Webster in her own paper. She walked the streets of 
Washington hesitating to post the letter that she knew would cause 
a sensation. She had not misjudged her facts. A storm of denuncia- 
tion broke loose. The Tribune condemned her. The religious press 
was shocked by her indelicacy. But the damaging paragraph was 
copied everywhere. “It was so short and pointed that in no other 
way could its wickedness be so well depicted as by making it a 
witness against itself,” Mrs. Swisshelm declared. 

Mr. Webster was a candidate for the Presidency at the time. In 
her autobiography the redoubtable Jane takes credit for having killed 
his prospects. When the national convention met in Pittsburgh in 
1852 to form the Free Democratic party, she attended the executive 
branch. The chairman rushed up to her to say: “I want to take the 
hand that killed Daniel Webster.” 

But Mr. Greeley forgave her and she continued to write occa- 
sionally for the Tribune. She had some of the ruthless frenzy of 
Anne Royall and made trouble wherever she went. Her husband was 
not literary, and she considered herself his mental superior. He, too, 
had his eccentricities. He kept a panther and bears. One day the 
panther nearly swallowed Jane whole while she was loping about 
on crutches after an accident. But this did not still her tongue or 
arrest her pen. 

She started her newspaper career by writing for the Pittsburgh 
Commercial Journal. She knew what to do with words. Even today 
her style seems sharp and lucid. Soon she announced she was going 
to start the Saturday Visiter as an abolitionist organ. Her financial 
backer begged her to spell visitor in the usual way. 

“Johnson is my authority,” said Mrs. Swisshelm, and stuck to her 
point for years. 

The paper was a six-column weekly. Horace Greeley and the 
haughty N. P. Willis both gave it recognition. All the hobbies and 
reforms of the day fourierism, spirit- 
ualism, vegetarianis: lijnal caudling and 



Invading the Press Gallery 325 

Magdalenism. Jane advocated coeducation of the young. After a 
railroad wreck she took credit for proposing the red light signal for 
the tail-end of trains, which later came into general use. She left the 
paper in 1857 and walked out on her husband soon afterwards, hav- 
ing just given birth to her first child at the age of forty. In a final 
flourish she announced: 

I had lived over twenty years without the legal right to be 
alone an hour— to have the exclusive use of one foot of space— 
to receive an unopened letter, or to preserve a line of mss. from 
sharp and sly inspection. 

Plainly Jane was fed up. So she took her baby and went to St. 
Paul. For years afterwards she was involved with her husband in 
litigation over property and other matters. But his spirit seems to 
have been more generous than hers, for he said of her on one occa- 
sion: “I believe she was the best woman God ever made and we 
would have had no trouble except for her friends.” 

She proceeded to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and there began the cam- 
paign which drove Governor Lowrie into a sanitarium. It took some 
time to accomplish his ruin, but Jane persisted. He lived in what she 
considered semi-barbaric splendor on the banks of the Mississippi 
surrounded by slaves. He was a handsome man, mesmeric and en- 
tertaining. Again Jane had a weapon of attack. She launched the 
St. Cloud Visiter and did occasional printing. This gave her a public. 
She badgered and hounded the Governor and went to extravagant 
lengths in running down his anti-abolition tendencies. Soldiers were 
brought out, her home was stoned, she was the center of a continual 
uproar. At last the Governor was committed to a sanitarium, worn 
out by the struggle, and Jane went on to fresh forays in the hospitals 
of Washington. 

Years later she and her victim met for the first time, after his 
release. He said to her sadly: 

I am the only person who ever understood you. People now 
think you go into hospitals from a sense of duty; from benevo- 
lence, like those good people who expect to get to heaven by 
doing disagreeable things on earth; but I know you go because 
you must; go for your own pleasure. You take care of the sick 
and wounded, go into all those dreadful places just as I used 
to drink brandy— for the sake of the exhilaration it brings you. 

Jane rampaged through the wards, insisted on taking over nursing 
duties, had rows the hut* finally made herself useful by 
rounding .up lem le her appeals through 

the columns of t 



326 Ladies of the Ft ess 

Hospital gangrene has broken out in Washington and we 
want lemons! lemons! lemons! LEMONS . No man or woman in 
health has a right to a glass of lemonade until these men have all 
they need; send us lemons. 

For a time Jane held a government job, making $60 a month. 
She continued to correspond for newspapers and became a regular 
contributor to the Southern Monthly , published in New Orleans. 
She wrote fiction, essays and straight news, but the propagandist 
note was ever present in her work. 

After her solitary day in the Press Gallery, a few feminine 
scribes slunk in to do gossipy letters under assumed names. They 
were usually clerks recruited from government offices. Then came 
Mary J. Windle, the author of several books. She was at her best 
during Buchanan’s administration; at her worst during Lincoln’s. 
He had her imprisoned as a Confederate spy, and when he was as- 
sassinated she tore down the crepe which soldiers nailed all over 
the house. Then she was imprisoned again. 

The next woman to make any sort of impression in the Gallery 
was Mrs. Emily Edson Briggs, the author of the Olivia letters. She 
arrived in Washington from Iowa in 1861. She wrote for the Wash- 
ington Chronicle and then for the Philadelphia Press. For more than 
forty years she was in and out of the Gallery, and saw government 
in the making. It was a big day in her life when she first began send- 
ing off “telegraphic dispatches to the press of other cities, giving 
details of legislation as it was being enacted.” This was an advance 
on the leisurely feuilleton, but it was some time before women used 
the telegraph regularly to send their dispatches. There was no 
thought of covering spot news. The correspondents were essayists 
or commentators. They wrote frankly and often in an unflattering 
vein. They shared the general abusive tenor of the press of that 
period. And, whenever possible, they broke into original verse. 

Olivia was a founder of the Woman’s National Press Association, 
which was organized in 1882. She died in 1910. One of her con- 
temporaries was Mary Clemmer Ames, who wrote for Henry Ward 
Beecher’s Standard , which later became the Independent . Mrs. Ames’ 
output was stupendous. One of her books was a gossipy sc {pry of life 
at the capital which stirred up talk at the time. 

The number of women in the Press Gallery began to creep up in 
the early seventies. The 1874 directory of the Forty-third Congress 
carried the following list: 



Invading the Tress Gallery 327 

Mrs. Mary Qemmer Ames, New York Independent 

Mrs. Mary Fuller, St. Louis Times 

Grace Greenwood, New York Times 

Mrs. Mary E. Nealy, New York Home Journal 

Mrs. F. C. Snead, Louisville Courier Journal 

Austine Snead, New York Graphic 

Mrs. E. D. Wallace, Philadelphia Evening Telegraph 

Eva McDonald Valesh, St. Paul Globe 

Mrs. E. S. Cogswell, North Carolina New Era 

When Grace Greenwood and Gail Hamilton came along they 
set a high standard for the others to match. They were cosmopoli- 
tans and women of wit— much sought after by government figures, 
to the envy of some of their colleagues, none of whom managed to 
cut so wide a swathe. Like most of her contemporaries Grace Green- 
wood did leisurely correspondence, hut, unlike the others, she in- 
fused a lively charm into her work and skipped the hurdles to avoid 
being trite. Her style was fresh and spirited. She had none of the 
intellectual incandescence that consumed Margaret Fuller, but she 
was better adapted to the urgent needs of newspaper work. 

Grace Greenwood was one of the assumed alliterative names of 
the period. She was bom Sara Jane Clarke, the daughter of a theo- 
logian, and her early days were spent in Pompey, New York, and 
Rochester. Her first literary attempts were lugubrious verses which 
dwelt lovingly on death. The vaporings of seventeen made accept- 
able newspaper reading in those sad days. “First the undertaker, 
then the minister, then Sara,” her brother gibed. 

At nineteen she was spending her winters in Philadelphia and 
contributing to the newspapers and to Godey’s Lady’s Book. In 
1850 her sketches and letters were collected and published as Green- 
wood Leaves , three years before Fanny Fern’s Leaves came out with 
stupefying success. Grace was inclined to be literary, so she could 
not hope to keep step with Fanny in popularity. But Dr. Gamaliel 
Bailey, editor of the National Era , asked her to write for his paper, 
which was published in Washington. This she did, at the same time 
corresponding for the New York Mirror. In 1852 she went abroad 
and sent back a series of vivacious letters to the American news- 
papers. 

The pi * lie was not yet surfeited with the travelogue idea. Few 
Americans had been abroad. Transportation was slow and expensive. 
To see Europe and some of its celebrities through the eyes of the 
observant and witty Grace Greenwood was a treat for the stay-at- 
homes. Thous rom her travels. She 

could make a it at the fireside. She 

wrote illumine Dickens after dining 



328 Ladies of the Press 

at their home. Dickens was the victim of many of these chatty visits 
on the part of lady correspondents from America. England was rich 
in literary celebrities, and as there were no syndicates to usurp their 
names and get their own output, they made fair pickings for the 
visiting correspondents. 

Grace Greenwood stayed in this fertile area for a year, rounding 
up Thackeray, Browning and a dozen others. She went up Mount 
Vesuvius; she was presented to the Pope. She explored churches and 
picture galleries. She was an indefatigable traveler and an abundant 
writer, filling many columns in the New York papers. At this time 
rival papers amicably printed correspondence from the same person. 
It might run concurrently without the slightest concern in either 
office— a practice that would be unthinkable today. 

On her return to America, she married Leander K. Lippincott, of 
Philadelphia, but went on writing for the papers and magazines. 
She read and lectured to soldiers in camps and hospitals during the 
Civil War, and made herself so generally useful that President Lin- 
coln called her “Grace Greenwood, the Patriot.” Her Washington 
sketches were published first in the New York Tribune. They were 
a smooth blend of the personal and political, written in a light and 
sometimes satirical vein. Occasionally she took a whack at the 
politicians: 

I have for some time abstained from chronicling Congres- 
sional doings, leaving the not very agreeable duty to your other 
and abler correspondents. I have been waiting for “our honor- 
able body” to return to a decent equanimity of temper and 
Christian-like behavior. These saucy serving-men of ours are 
really becoming disagreeably and uncomfortably quarrelsome. 
They “take the wall” to each other and “frown and bite their 
thumbs” on every occasion. We are told that a Congress of 
women would be shockingly unruly, passionate and slanderous; 
but it would take women of forty Billingsgate power to surpass 
the late displays of honorable gentlemen of both honorable 
houses. Scenes there have been in the stately chambers which 
in their rise and progress remind one of the memorable tea-fight 
between Sairey Gamp and Betsy Prigg; scenes that half-inclined 
one to think there might be, as in the case of that little un- 
pleasantness, something a little stronger than tea in the pot. 

Really, these eternal Republican family quarrels and bicker- 
ings are getting rather tiresome— especially as, rough and ran- 
corous though they seem, we know they are but words, words, 
words, mere passion-poisoned breath— safe insults, bloodless 
duels. One almost wishes the wnrHv rnmhafflnts would have a 
regular stand-u chivalrous style, 

and have done 



Invading the Press Gallery 329 

Later she contributed “Occasional Washington Notes” to the 
New York Times , commenting on people and events. When she 
made a trip through the West in 1871 she sent back letters written 
intermittently as she traveled, lectured and went sightseeing. They 
all had the flavor of an alert intelligence. She did not strike the re- 
forming note, like most of her contemporaries, or beat the bass drum. 
She was content to record what she saw. 

She returned to Europe later in the seventies, and her sparkling 
letters came from London, Paris, Milan or wherever her wandering 
feet took her. She came home in 1887 and lived in Washington until 
1900. Four years later she died at the home of her playwright son- 
in-law, Henry Field Winslow, in New Rochelle, New York. 

More satirical than Grace Greenwood, and a really potent force 
in Washington, was Gail Hamilton, one of the sharpest writers on 
political topics of the nineteenth century. She was a cousin of Mrs. 
James G. Blaine and was in the inner councils of her husband. She 
lived in their home and wrote Mr. Blaine’s life history shortly be- 
fore her death. Journalism was only one of her interests. She wrote 
verse, biography, juvenilia, essays, history and sermons. Fanny Fern’s 
estimate of her gives some idea of the vigor of Gail Hamilton’s pen: 

A lady, at whose mention stalwart men have been known to 
tremble, and hide in corners; who “keeps a private graveyard” 
for the burial of those whom she has mercilessly slain; who 
respects neither the spectacles of the judge, nor the surplice of 
the priest; who holds the mirror of men’s failings till they hate 
their wives merely because they belong to her sex. 

Gail was a spinster, a Calvinist, a farmer’s daughter. Her name was 
Mary Abigail Dodge and she took the Gail from her middle name 
and Hamilton from the town in Massachusetts where she was bom 
in 1833. She grew up in New England, the youngest of seven chil- 
dren. She was educated at Ipswich Female Seminary and was grad- 
uated in 1850, turning to teaching, first at Ipswich, then at Hart- 
ford. Dr. Bailey, who first published Grace Greenwood’s work, 
also gave Gail Hamilton a platform, not suspecting the political 
power she was to wield as the years went on. 

She moved to Washington in 1858 to become the governess in his 
home. There she met the celebrities of the capital and her social 
sphere widened considerably. She got to know Whittier, Mrs. Har- 
riet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Soon she developed 
the habit of writing constantly and voluminously. She was at the 
height of her power while Mr. Blaine was Secretary of State, and 
was credited with influencing his hidcrments and aiding him with 
his speeches. Polit es all courted her 



330 Ladies of the tress 

favor and listened to what she had to say. She haunted Congress, as 
Alice Longworth does today, and her work appeared in the Trib- 
une , the World and the leading magazines of the day. Her words 
were barbed. Her witticisms were quoted far and wide. She under- 
stood statecraft better than most politicians. Her political articles 
were informed, if somewhat intemperate in tone. She interviewed all 
the men of the hour and wormed secrets out of close-mouthed 
officials. 

Her point of view was rarely constant. She attacked Horace 
Greeley savagely when he ran for the Presidency. Five years later 
she was tirading against civil service reform in the Tribune , which 
by that time was edited by Whitelaw Reid. Her first article on this 
subject appeared in 1877. It was followed by eight more instalments 
of dubious prose and cockeyed reasoning. Gail was a stand-pat poli- 
tician in some respects; advanced in others. She backed abolition and 
was an early suffragist. She campaigned on behalf of the Armenians 
and worked frantically for the liberation of Mrs. Maybrick, an 
American woman imprisoned in London on the charge of murdering 
her husband. She always maintained that “woman was bom into the 
whole world.” 

In 1878 her name appeared in the Tribune again with seven articles 
on “Politics in the Pulpit— the Need of Pulpit Reform.” They were 
based on the Fast Day sermons preached throughout the country, 
and they were free and abusive in tone. The clergymen quailed be- 
fore Gail’s onslaught. She called them liars, ignoramuses and threw 
brickbats freely at their reverend heads. The public enjoyed the ink- 
slinging until she tired of the church and turned her satire into other 
channels. Today, such stories in all probability would be killed for 
their excessive rancor. However, personal abuse was the order of the 
times. Publishers set the example on their editorial pages; reporters 
followed suit. It was a merry free-for-all. But even in the Press 
Gallery Gail Hamilton’s pen was felt to be sharp. She was the best 
informed of the correspondents and sometimes the most astute but 
she did nothing to prove that a woman was capable of unbiased 
reporting. 

Gail was a homely figure but magnetic. She dressed plainly in 
the Press Gallery but went in for all the luxury of the era on her 
evening forays. Her head was excessively large and her features were 
heavy and masculine. She had a high forehead and bulbous steel- 
blue eyes. But her conversation was delightful, informed and witty, 
and the cleverest men were glad to sit beside her at dinner. Her 
writings always had background. She demonstrated that a woman 
political writer could wield real power, although how much of 
this was due to her * to the Blaine con- 



Invading the Press Gallery 331 

nection, it would be difficult to determine. Unquestionably she was 
a formidable political reporter and critic, and she wrote with a sting 
that is unequaled in the Press Gallery today. Her ear was always 
to the ground, and even if her conclusions seem debatable now, 
they must have been potent at the time. 

But all the women correspondents were in the same predicament 
by 1877. They were kicked out of the Gallery. For fourteen years 
it was again a masculine monopoly. However, the ban was not 
confined to them. It was a general tightening up of the rules of 
admission. A number of men were barred at the same time. Today 
only correspondents who send their dispatches by telegraph are 
regularly admitted to the Press Gallery. And not more than a dozen 
women make steady use of the privilege. 

After the ban went into effect it was not until the early nineties 
that a woman appeared again in the Press Gallery. This time it was 
Mrs. Isabel Worrell Ball, a Westerner bom in a log cabin and as 
handy with a gun as a pen. She preferred a group of squabbling 
politicians to a roomful of women at tea. She was not a suffragist, 
unlike most of the early women writers, who used their press outlet 
to campaign for women’s rights. 

Mrs. Ball was born in 1855 near Hennepin, Illinois, and at thirteen 
years of age began to read law with her father. When she was 
eighteen the family moved to Kansas. She roved the prairies, helped 
to herd her father’s stock, learned to throw a lasso like a cowboy 
and to swing a gun. She taught in the first public school in Pawnee 
County, Kansas, and spent a year clerking in a shop three miles from 
her home, galloping back and forth on her pony. After her marriage 
she lived an adventurous life in New Mexico and Arizona. 

Her newspaper work began in 1881 on the Albuquerque Journal. 
The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was then being built from Albu- 
querque to the Needles. Her husband was a member of the con- 
struction gang and was away from home most of the time. If there 
was a washout, an Indian outbreak or a wreck, he was expected to 
be on hand. Mrs. Ball’s life was filled with hazard. Once wolves tore 
her clothes as she outrode a ravening pack. Both Navajo and Apache 
Indians were constantly skirmishing around her home. Again, a 
train on which she rode was surrounded by Indians and escape was 
cut off by a washout. The box car in which she hid was riddled 
with bullets and two men were killed, but she escaped unhurt. 

Her experiences gave color to her work. After two years in these 
wild surroundings, seeing no woman’s face but a squaw’s, she became 
editor of the Chronoscope, a Republican paper in western Kansas. 
Her next move was to Topeka to do editorial work for the Daily 



332 Ladies of the Press 

Times in Kansas City and a year later she moved over to the Star. 
In that same year she called together the better known writers 
of the West and founded the Western Authors and Artists Club. She 
left the Kansas City Star in 1891 and moved to Washington. Soon 
afterwards she took her place in the Press Gallery. 

The pen name Howard Glyndon which appeared frequently in 
the New York and St. Louis papers during the sixties and seventies 
belonged to Laura Catherine Redden, a Maryland girl who became 
deaf and dumb after an attack of spinal meningitis, yet managed to 
correspond from the Press Gallery during the Civil War. She 
adopted her pen name for its masculine sound. This was the period 
when the Fanny Fern, Jenny June and Grace Greenwood allitera- 
tions were in vogue. Miss Redden wrote for the St. Louis Repub- 
lican. Like Grace Greenwood, she did travel correspondence for 
the Times from Europe and on her return in 1868 joined the staff 
of the Mail. During the next few years she studied articulation 
with Alexander Graham Bell and learned to speak again. In 1876 
she married Edward W. Searing, a lawyer, and when her health 
failed she and her husband went to live in California. 

Long before Marguerite Young appeared in the Press Gallery 
espousing the labor cause, Mrs. Eva McDonald Valesh, the daughter 
of a Minneapolis carpenter and labor agitator, was sending fiery 
pieces to the St. Paul Globe. She had worked in stores and factories 
and had written a series of letters for her paper on the working girl 
of that era. She had mounted soap boxes before she was twenty-one, 
and was one of the first correspondents in Washington, man or 
woman, to view government from the workingman’s point of view. 

Another of the pioneers in the Gallery was Fanny B. Ward, who 
represented the New Orleans Picayune. She was an itinerant re- 
porter, sending letters from wherever she happened to roam. She was 
one of the first American correspondents to enter Cuba in 1898 and 
was there when the Maine was destroyed. 

At the turn of the century Marie Mattingly, small, vivid and en- 
terprising, was in and out of the Press Gallery doing political 
sketches. Mrs. Frank Leslie, wife of the owner of Leslie's Weekly , 
also liked to watch the legislators from the Press Gallery. But the 
woman who did more than any other to break down prejudice 
against newspaper women in Washington was Cora Rigby, for 
many years head of the Christian Science Monitor bureau and as 
able a correspondent as any man. At first the newspaper men re- 
sented her presence. It was something new to have a woman head 
a bureau which employed men. But she was so unobtrusive in her 
manner, so sound in her work, thdt she soon won their admiration. 
Her stvle was nervous, comnact. forceful. There nnthincr ohrmt 



Invading the Tress Gallery 333 

her copy to indicate that it was written by a woman. Her mind 
was excellently geared for political work and she was sometimes 
uncanny in her divinations. She did straight reporting and could 
cover anything, from melodrama to an international incident. 

At one time she was threatened with tuberculosis. She was told 
as she lay in a hospital bed that she must leave at once for New 
Mexico to remain there permanently, if she were to live for more 
than two years. When the specialists left, she calmly got out of bed, 
dressed herself, walked out of the hospital and fainted on the way 
home. Next morning she was at work and she never went to New 
Mexico. Toward the end of her life she insisted on going to the 
political conventions, although she knew that she had only a short 
time to live. 

Miss Rigby was appointed Washington correspondent of the 
Monitor in 1918 and headed the bureau for more than seven years. 
She had the confidence of all the politicians. Presidents and ambas- 
sadors treated her as a friend. She knew the Hoovers during the war 
days in London, and she was a special favorite of Mrs. Coolidge’s. 
She often had precedence in official quarters. Once she went to get a 
statement from a Cabinet officer on some current issue. He was not 
in when she arrived, but his secretary suggested that Miss Rigby sit 
down and write the statement herself. She did. Then she was asked 
to return in an hour, so as to give him time to study it and see if 
it had his approval. 

When she returned, the Cabinet officer handed Miss Rigby two 
sheets of paper with the remark: “I’m sorry I had to dictate this in 
such a hurry. I am not sure that it is exactly what you want. Will 
you read it?” 

He handed her her own copy, word for word, without a comma 
missing. 

“Just exactly what I wanted, Mr. Secretary,” said Miss Rigby, and 
bowed herself out. 

Her earliest connection with a newspaper was political. She was 
bom in Lancaster, Ohio, and was educated at Western Seminary, 
Ohio State University and Boston University. After her graduation 
she went home to Columbus, Ohio, to live. Her father was Judge 
William L. Rigby, and she heard plenty of political gossip under 
the family rooftree. Before she had been home long she conceived 
the idea of writing a daily column for one of the local papers. The 
editor was scandalized. When she showed up in the local room he 
told her that a newspaper office was no place for a nice girl. He 
knew that her father was an important figure in town. So he put 
on his hat and escorted her home. The n he told her mother to keen 



334 Ladies of the Press 

her there. But next day Cora showed up with another column of 
comment. 

He told her he would not think of using it. But he looked it over 
and was interested. It appeared in the paper next day, but without a 
by-line. Cora returned with another. Every time she appeared he 
tried to discourage her, but he kept on using her work. Finally he 
paid her for it. Meanwhile, the column became so authoritative that 
the townspeople believed the Governor’s secretary was writing it. 
Miss Rigby encouraged this gossip and laughed up her sleeve. One 
day she asked for a desk in the office. 

“Of course not,” said the obstinate editor. “Besides, we haven’t a 
spare desk.” 

Miss Rigby went over to a dusty desk in a comer. She opened the 
drawers and found them empty. She sat down and wrote her column 
on the spot. It was only a matter of days until she was sent out to 
cover a woman’s meeting. After that she did all the news of this sort 
in the city, until her job became too easy and she decided to try 
Boston. There she did assignments on space for a time and then 
moved to New York, where she worked for the Mail and then for 
the Herald. She ran contests. She covered general news. She edited 
the Sunday magazine. A Scot in the composing room taught her 
make-up. To run the magazine and please James Gordon Bennett 
was no light task. To begin with, he disapproved of women in posi- 
tions of trust. She was in England working for the Herald when 
war broke out. On her return to America Mr. Bennett gave her a 
Pekinese pup as a present— a special sign of his favor. Miss Rigby 
was with the Herald for fifteen years. When Mr. Munsey bought it 
she moved over to the Christian Science Monitor , where she re- 
mained until her death in 1930 at the age of sixty-four. 

In her off-hours Miss Rigby liked to wander about the country- 
side, studying flowers, birds and old houses. She had a generous spirit 
and was an easy mark for schemers and promoters. Anyone out of 
a job, anyone hard up, sought Miss Rigby and usually got aid. She 
liked to see young newspaper women progress in their field. She 
served seven terms as president of the Women’s National Press Club 
and in her will left the club women money to aid impoverished 
members of the craft. Her closest friend was Margaret Williamson, 
who knew her intimately for twenty years, lived with her in New 
York and in Washington and went abroad with her twice. 

Miss Williamson is another newspaper woman who has worked on 
the Monitor for years. At one time or another in the twenty years 
she has been with the paper she has edited five of its feature pages, 
done essays, special articles and book reviews. She now edits the 
Home Forum. 



Invading the Press Gallery 335 

It was Miss Rigby who launched Mary F. Homaday, who does 
capable work in the Press Gallery for the Monitor . Miss Homaday 
was fresh from Swarthmore when Miss Rigby, short-handed in the 
bureau, took her on in 1927. It was natural for Mary to gravitate to 
journalism. She comes from a newspaper family. Her father, James 
P. Homaday, has been Washington correspondent of the Indianapo- 
lis News for thirty-four years. A brother, Hilton P. Homaday, is 
financial editor of the Buffalo Evening News . An uncle, William D. 
Homaday, is professor of journalism at the University of Texas. 

There wasn’t much else for her to do but get christened in news 
print. She was launched directly into the Press Gallery without any 
slow or painful apprenticeship. She knew most of the correspondents 
through her father, and they did not attempt to freeze her out, in 
spite of her youth and inexperience. Miss Homaday took readily to 
political work. She is quiet, modest, competent. Covering the Presi- 
dent’s wife is only one aspect of her work, for she is regular in her 
attendance in the Press Gallery. She did the Senate lobby and muni- 
tions investigations and during the days of the NRA covered many 
of the alphabetical agencies. Occasionally she does features for the 
New York Herald Tribune . 

One of the familiar figures of the Press Gallery for many years 
was Mary Osborne Carpenter, who was in charge of the Wash- 
ington news bureau of La Prensa. She was frequently consulted by 
her colleagues because of her knowledge of Spanish and Latin Amer- 
ican affairs. For three years she acted as special correspondent of the 
United Press at the Institute of Public Affairs in Charlottesville, Vir- 
ginia, where her advice was sought in planning the Latin-American 
round tables. Miss Carpenter was a native of Tennessee. She learned 
Spanish when she went to Puerto Rico as secretary to Governor 
Regis Post. Later she held official posts in Argentina, Chile and Peru. 
She worked for the Creel committee during the war and toured 
most of the countries of South America. 

A woman correspondent who writes for a string of papers and 
inherited her connection through her husband is Mrs. Elisabeth May 
Craig, who has papers in Maine, Montana and North Carolina. For 
the last twelve years Mrs. Craig has written a lively column for the 
Portland Press-Herald . She has a shrewd political sense and under- 
stands the men with whom she deals better than most of the cor- 
respondents who flit in and out of the Gallery. She can give the low- 
down on the clay feet of the political buddhas. 

Her column frequently conflicts with everything else on the edi- 
torial page of her Maine paper. She says what she likes. It may be 
philosophical comment; it may be a stinging attack. When delega- 
tions arrive from Maine, she shepherds them about and sees that 



336 Ladies of the Press 

their Representatives give them a proper reception. She is known in 
the Gallery as “Quoddy,” so carefully has she nursed along the 
Passamaquoddy power project. As a result of her patient work over 
months and years she got a clean scoop when the Government aban- 
doned the loan idea and decided to make it a federal project. 

Mrs. Craig’s husband, Donald A. Craig, a descendent of Kate 
Field, headed the Washington bureau of the New York Herald for 
years. He was in the press car that plunged over an embankment 
near Denver in 1922 while he was following President Harding. 
Mr. Craig was injured. His companion in the car, Thomas F. Daw- 
son, was killed. 

Mrs. Craig helped her husband with some of his out-of-town cor- 
respondence and occasionally she wrote an item for the Sunday 
W orld . Then one day she was asked by the W orld bureau in Wash- 
ington to get a story on how Calvin Coolidge dictated. One of the 
stenographers at the White House happened to be from Maine. It 
was a simple matter for the quick-witted Mrs. Craig to find out from 
her how Cal did his work. The story was picked up and quoted all 
over the country. It netted her only $1.27 at the time but after that 
she did more work for the World. 

Today Mrs. Craig is the most conscientious conference-goer in 
the Gallery. She misses nothing. She likes to pick up background 
even when she is not looking for spot news. She is interested in 
people and has a quick sense for the trivia that illumine human 
character. Her eyes are wide open to political bunk and she can 
give any political aspirant tips on how to take the hurdles. She was 
bom in South Carolina but has lived in Washington since she was 
ten years old. She is small, animated, with a sparkling glance that 
rests shrewdly on the passing parade. Her son, Don Craig, is motion 
picture critic of the Washington News. 

The State of Maine is ably served in the Press Gallery by two of 
the brightest members of the corps— Ruby Black and Mrs. Craig. 
They are also the champions of women’s rights in their sphere. Jane 
Swisshelm probably would be disappointed could she come back 
today and find that women have made so little real headway in the 
political field. Only a handful pass regularly through the doors she 
blithely opened. And most of the correspondents are still doing 
features rather than news, or they are covering for papers which get 
their main political correspondence from the press services. Ruth 
Finney is the exception. She has gone farther than anyone else. She 
has quietly hurdled every barrier and ranks with the best men in the 
Gallery. She is the only woman to write lead political stories for a 
national string of papers. 



Invading the Tress Gallery 337 

Gallery are on the trail of local angles. Frequently they are as close 
to the states they represent as their congressmen. They study special 
problems— fanning, fisheries, canning or mining, according to their 
geographical interests. So weak is the editorial faith in their judg- 
ment, however, that occasionally, when they get important beats 
through their local connections, their own papers await confirma- 
tion from the press services. This has happened repeatedly, to the 
chagrin of experienced and careful newspaper women. 

The correspondent in Washington is beset with news. She works 
in a rich field. But she must be wary of propaganda. It overflows 
her desk each day, sometimes in the most insidious form. She is 
forced to exercise care and judgment, for she has to interpret and 
appraise her facts with a shrewdness not required in any other 
branch of reporting. 

The politicians treat the women correspondents exactly as they 
do the men, although they are frequently squeezed out of smoking- 
room confidences. As a rule legislators weigh the importance of the 
paper behind the girl, but they rarely ignore her because her con- 
nection is inconsequential. One senator will refuse news to a corre- 
spondent whose paper opposes him politically; another will hand it 
out with candor to a girl who writes for half a dozen papers that 
attack him regularly. 

The woman correspondent is accepted more generally by the 
legislative body than by her own colleagues in the Press Gallery. She 
has not yet been accepted into the brotherhood on free and equal 
terms, although the prejudice is dying fast, largely because a few 
capable members of the craft have helped to raise the professional 
standing of the women in the Press Gallery. But the girls share little 
in the black-sheet system of Washington. This does not worry them, 
since they are energetic and would just as soon rustle up their own 
news. But it bothers the more ardent feminists that they are not 
admitted to membership in the National Press Club. The nearest 
they get to it is the virgin solitude of their private dining-room next 
door to the chamber where the master minds discuss the government 
of the country. Another bitter pill is the failure of the White House 
Correspondents’ Association to invite its feminine members to the 
annual dinner, at which the President is always the guest of honor. 
When they made an issue of this and applied for reservations in a 
routine way, they were coldly turned down on a pretext that did 
not fool them for a minute. 

But Mrs. Roosevelt has raised their stock and made amends by 
launching her own masquerade for the ladies of the press and legis- 
lators’ wives on Gridiron night. And she is the guest of honor at 



338 Ladies of the Press 

their annual stunt party. Invitations for this affair are eagerly sought 
by the official set. 

The Women’s National Press Club is a progressive and cohesive 
unit with a membership of 133 newspaper women. It meets for 
luncheon every Tuesday, gets speakers of distinction and has annual 
parties of some account. The Newspaper Women’s Club of Wash- 
ington also functions smoothly, with a membership of 92 writing 
women. 



I 339 } 


Chapter XXVI 

THE PRESS GALLERY TODAY 


A SLIM GIRL WITH REDDISH HAIR AND A SELF-CONTAINED MANNER 

stood in a dusty sawmill talking into the one telephone in 
sight. Nearby forty-seven men lay entombed in a gold mine. 
It was September 18, 1922, and the girl was Ruth Finney, cover- 
ing the Argonaut Mine disaster at Jackson, California. Her office 
was on the telephone, calling her to ask what was doing. She had 
the one incoming wire in the sawmill, where most of her competi- 
tors were quartered. Suddenly she saw a reporter, who had gone 
scouting to the mouth of the mine, break into a run. 

“Hold on, something is happening,” she exclaimed. 

She held the receiver, caught the quick flash, gave the story over 
the wire while the A.P. man stood listening with a ghastly face. She 
was covering for the U.P. and her paper, the Sacramento Star . 

After two weeks the rescuers had broken through. The whole 
country had been waiting to learn the fate of the entombed men. 
Help came too late. They were dead. Miss Finney’s flash carried 
the news to every outpost. It was a thrilling beat. She had worked 
against heavy odds, with only two assistants to match the hordes 
from rival papers. 

A fire in the Argonaut Mine had trapped the men. In order to 
reach them the rescue party had dug down to another mine two 
miles away and had then done a cross-cut. More than a hundred 
reporters were on the spot. They had to stay up night and day, not 
knowing when the rescuers might break through. 

The Hearst papers had a leased wire at the mouth of the tunnel. 
The other reporters were cooped up in the sawmill, which was 
private property. The owners were hostile to the press and every- 
thing was made as difficult for them as possible. They had only the 
one wire and they had to send their copy in to Jackson by courier, 
or get along as best they could. It was the usual mad scramble that 
any sort of catastrophe means for the press. Nothing Miss Finney 
has done since then has seemed to her as exciting as sending through 



340 Ladies of the Press 

the flash on the entombed miners, although for years she has been a 
national headliner. 

Today she ranks as the leading woman political writer working 
in Washington. She is a recognized authority on power, oil, labor 
and federal budgeting. Her work centers chiefly on constitutional 
questions but she knows the newspaper game from every angle— 
its alarms, its speed, its drama. She is a Scripps-Howard star and has 
never worked for anyone else. She is the wife of Robert S. Allen, 
co-author of Merry-Go-Round. Their romance began in the Press 
Gallery and developed while they were covering the Presidential 
campaign of 1928. 

Miss Finney has fiery personal convictions but is objective in her 
work. Her stories are lucid and terse. She can cut through masses of 
figures, clarify the most obscure technicality, give point to the 
hidden implications of a story. She abhors bunk, knows it when she 
see it, and has a smart way of knocking it into a cocked hat. Frank 
J. Hogan, raging over her stories on the oil scandals in 1926, called 
her “Poison Ivy.” As chief counsel for Edward L. Doheny, he 
didn’t like her explicit reporting. When the jury box was being 
filled at the trial, one venireman admitted that he had formed an 
opinion on the merits of the case from reading Miss Finney’s stories. 
After that any candidate who admitted knowledge of her work 
was rejected by the defense. Again, she was in the thick of the 
Scripps-Howard fight to have the oil territory at Elk Hills and Tea- 
pot Dome returned to the United States. 

Like many another good newspaper woman Miss Finney comes 
from California. She started on the Sacramento Star. She had been 
teaching for thirty days when she got her chance to enter newspaper 
work, and she did not hesitate for a moment. Within a week she was 
doing the City Hall beat. This gave her a taste for politics. Her paper 
ran a successful city charter campaign which the Sacramento Bee 
opposed. The contest was stimulating to a young reporter. It gave 
her the first whiff of battle, an instinct which was to carry her 
through many subsequent campaigns. 

When the flu epidemic laid the staff low, she covered state and 
city politics wearing a mask. During this period she learned to do 
make-up, desk work and copy reading. From 1922 to 1923 she was 
city editor of the paper, with a staff of men working for her. When 
her paper was sold, she went to the San Francisco News. In 1924 she 
was transferred to Washington as correspondent for the Scripps- 
Howard papers in California and New Mexico. She was also assigned 
to write features and editorials. But in 1930 she was relieved of her 
regional work to concentrate on‘ the national field. She still does 
editorials on subjects in which she specializes. 



The Press Gallery Today 341 

When she arrived in Washington she saw at once that the Press 
Gallery was a man’s world. Most of the important subjects were 
already preempted by someone or other in her organization. So she 
decided to concentrate on a neglected department. And she hit on 
power. While the Public Utility Holding bill was pending, she 
studied it from every angle. This was not by any means the ABC of 
journalism. Men much more experienced than she shied off it and 
gave it superficial treatment. But Miss Finney devoted time and 
thought to the bill. She studied the whole subject of power. She 
mopped up the most abstruse facts, sifted them through the clear 
channels of good reasoning and wrote stories that were informed and 
alive. She became one of the few political writers who could throw 
light on the intricacies of the power question. Coupled with this, she 
was fearless and independent. She campaigned hard for the bill pro- 
viding for the construction of Boulder Dam. It was a slow fight. 
It took eight years to go through and her stories were a clear and 
forceful record of every step along the way. When the bill was 
in its final stages in the Senate, the other correspondents swarmed 
around Miss Finney for information. She was more interviewed 
than Senator Hiram Johnson, its author. No one was in a better 
position to tell them what it was all about. 

She has applied the same thorough technique to her other work in 
Washington— covering the oil scandals, the Federal Trade Commis- 
sion, bankruptcy, the budget and relief. When the NRA was created, 
she followed its whirlwind course and the papers of the Scripps- 
Howard chain carried her crisp stories on America’s gigantic experi- 
ment in autocratic legislation. This was a night and day job for the 
first six months, one big story cracking after another. Immediately 
after the NRA was organized she and Turner Catledge, of the New 
York Times , had the jump on their competitors by getting first news 
on the blanket code and what the terms would be. The various 
advisory boards w r ere in session most of the night, and no one else 
knew precisely what was going on. 

Miss Finney’s power lobby stories during 1935 were much dis- 
cussed. Her expert reporting on this subject excited interest, regard- 
less of the reader’s point of view. Late in June, 1935, she conducted a 
stunt for the Scripps-Howard papers, when she directed a corps of 
reporters in a check-up on the teller vote taken by the House on the 
Utility Holding Company bill. They came close to the correct 
line-up. As soon as they had assembled their figures, they gave them 
to their colleagues, and the public learned just what had happened 
behind the screen of the teller vote. 

Miss Finney’s assignments are never of the pink tea order. She 
sat in jail writing an impressionistic story while Sacco and Vanzetti 



34 2 


Ladies of the Press 

were being executed. She has written a number of labor stories and 
did the Communist trials in Atlanta. When she went to Europe with 
her husband in 1930 she sent back stories on the new American tariff 
schedule and unemployment in the chief cities of Europe. During 
1934 s ^ e wrote a sparkling editorial column called “The National 
Round-up” but gave it up for lack of time. 

Miss Finney can take a budget story and make it simple reading 
for the average man. But behind this clarity lies the rare rcportorial 
knack of being able to synthesize the most complicated facts and 
turn them into readable copy. She has simplified her style to the 
last degree. She never writes a superfluous word but manages to 
convey in a half column what most political writers take two col- 
umns to tell. 

Miss Finney and her husband live in an old house in Georgetown, 
furnished with pieces brought from Mexico and South America. 
She gardens and puts in domestic touches when she is not wrestling 
with the intricacies of government or studying desiccated tracts on 
power. Her intellectual vigor is masked behind a quiet feminine 
manner. She is retiring and contemplative by habit, but dauntless in 
her work. Her vague expression turns to intense concentration when 
she is interested. She pounds out her stories in the Press Gallery with 
the assurance that comes from having complete grasp of her sub- 
ject. Her co-workers do not all agree with her in some of her views, 
but they have the utmost respect for her work. She is that rare and 
practically undiscoverable creature— the perfect woman reporter. 

A senior colleague of hers, Winifred Mallon, has the distinction 
of having led the New York Times on different occasions with her 
Washington stories— the only woman to have achieved this promi- 
nence in the conservative Times. She is a sound and experienced 
reporter and has been watching history on Capitol Hill for long 
enough to know its implications. 

Miss Mallon can cover a social function or write straight news 
with equal facility. She has handled practically every type of story 
at one time or another and in her busy life has managed to crowd 
in time foi* fiction and magazine articles, as well as her newspaper 
work. She began sending news dispatches from Washington in 1902, 
and in 1918 was admitted to the Press Gallery. For twenty years she 
wrote for the Chicago Tribune, before joining the staff of the Times . 

Miss Mallon came originally from North Evans, New York, and 
lived in Washington for ten years before leaving school to begin the 
business of earning a living. She learned about newspaper work from 
such experienced men as Raymond A. Patterson, Arthur Sears Hen- 
ning and Grafton Wilcox. Mr. Patterson headed the bureau when 
she started. His by-line “By Raymond” was one of the best known 



The Press Gallery Today 343 

coming out of Washington. Miss Mallon’s first paragraph, con- 
tributed to the Raymond column, was an item about Mrs. Theodore 
Roosevelt’s selection of books for the White House Library. The 
date was December 26, 1902, and it revealed that Mayne Reid was 
the favorite author of the White House children. 

When Admiral Sims was recalled from London in 1921 and was 
reprimanded by Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby for a po- 
litical observation made in a speech, he was received by President 
Harding at the moment that Mr. Denby was telling the press about 
the rebuke. Miss Mallon covered the Secretary’s press conference for 
her bureau and it was she who brought out the fact that official dis- 
approval of the Admiral’s reference to pro-Irish republican “resolu- 
tions forced by jackass votes” was departmental and not presidential 
—unlike the incident in 19 n when Sims, then a captain, was repri- 
manded by President Taft for predicting in a speech delivered in 
London that if seriously menaced by a European coalition, the Brit- 
ish Empire could “count on every man, every dollar, every drop of 
blood of your kindred across the sea.” 

Miss Mallon went from the press conference to Admiral Sims’ 
hotel to see what he had to say about the case. She was having tea 
with Mrs. Sims when the Admiral came in from the White House. 
They exchanged notes on his reception and reprimand. He was un- 
dismayed, even cheerful. He said that his call at the White House 
had been a pleasant one and that so far as the official reprimand was 
concerned he had “got what was coming to him for having spilled 
the beans.” 

“I’m sorry to have caused the administration any embarrassment,” 
he said. “The fact is, I didn’t know it was loaded— at least so much.” 
All of which went to the making of a neat story on an episode of 
national interest. A month later Miss Mallon wrote the story of the 
Admiral’s vindication and commendation by the Senate Naval Af- 
fairs sub-committee which investigated the controversy. 

The day after Mrs. Terence MacSwiney appeared before the 
American Commission on Conditions in Ireland in 1920 and told the 
story of her husband’s last days, a telegram reached Miss Mallon’s 
bureau from Chicago: “Whoever wrote the story about Mrs. Mac- 
Swiney this morning did an excellent piece of work and a bonus of 
$25 is awarded to him. Who did write it?” 

Mr. Henning, who was then head of the bureau, wired back: “Miss 
Winifred Mallon wrote the story. We are proud of her.” 

The two features— “Side Lights on Congress” and “Lest We For- 
get”— which ran on the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune during 
1918 and 1919, were written by Miss Mallon. When Ellis Island was 
like the Tower of Babel, swamped with multitudes from Europe, she 



344 Ladies of the Press 

interpreted the immigration and passport snarls that developed in 
Washington. She had specialized knowledge to bring to bear on 
this subject, for she had worked for a time in the government service 
on Ellis Island. She wrote a series of articles on passport legislation 
and the plans to amend the laws. 

When the Soviet leaders tried to enlist the support of Senators and 
other politicians in the name of the American Red Cross, Miss Mal- 
ion first broke the story from a tip turned over to her by Mr. 
Henning. This expose led to a rumpus between the American agents 
of the Soviet and Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce. 

From 1925 to 1929 Miss Mallon free-lanced, and during this period 
she worked up such a sound connection with the New York Times 
that she was taken regularly on the staff— a distinct innovation for 
the Washington bureau of this paper. While still on an assignment 
basis she was sent with the Times crew to the Republican and Demo- 
cratic national conventions in 1928 and in the autumn of that year did 
a solo campaign swing through five states to report what women were 
thinking of A 1 Smith and Herbert Hoover. She dug underneath the 
surface and assembled an illuminating mass of material. She talked to 
women in kitchens and in drawing-rooms, on the street, in restau- 
rants, on doorsteps, wherever she found them. Her stories made good 
reading. In July, 1929, she was accepted as a member in full standing 
on Richard V. Oulahan’s staff, and was assigned regularly to cover 
political stories for the Times — a landmark for women in journalism. 

Miss Mallon reported the hearings held in 1929 and 1930 by the 
Interstate Commerce committee of the Senate on the Couzens com- 
munications bill, which resulted in the reorganization of the Radio 
Commission and its rebirth as the Federal Communications Commis- 
sion. This was a technical and important assignment. Her stories got 
a heavy play in the Times. When the hearings were over the com- 
mittee counsel complimented her on the accuracy, clarity and gen- 
eral excellence of her reports. Her next assignment was to cover the 
lively lobby committee hearings conducted by Senator Thaddeus H. 
Caraway during the spring of 1930. Sparks flew every day as the 
witty Senator clashed with the witnesses drawn into the inquiry. 

Annually since 1919 Miss Mallon has reported the two-week ses- 
sions of the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. 
She has covered all manner of gatherings, ranging from the Institute 
of Law and the American Bar Association to the Anti-Saloon League 
and the D.A.R. Most impressive of all her assignments was the return 
of the Unknown Soldier, brought back through the early dusk of a 
cold and rainy November day to He in state for a night in -the Capi- 
tol on the catafalque which had borne the remains of Lincoln, Gar- 



The Tress Gallery Today 345 

field and McKinley. She wrote a simple and moving story on this 
event. 

In the following week she attended the most brilliant of the so- 
cial functions she has witnessed in Washington— the reception held 
at the Pan-American Union by the Secretary of State and Mrs. 
Charles Evans Hughes for the delegates to the Conference on Limi- 
tation of Armaments in 1921. 

She saw war missions and visiting royalty come and go, assisted 
in reporting both visits of the Prince of Wales and attended the re- 
ception given for him at the Library of Congress during the Wilson 
administration. She watched Ishbel MacDonald, Jos6 Laval, Madame 
Curie and the King of Siam face the social barrage in Washington. 
During the Hoover administration she followed the laughable twists 
and turns of the involved social comedy known as the Dolly Gann- 
Alice Longworth incident. Her work has been extraordinarily di- 
versified. Better than most, she could draw a picture of the Wash- 
ington of yesterday and today, for her memory is stocked with 
passing faces, stories, pageants and events. 

Wherever news is breaking in a lively way in Washington red- 
haired Bess Furman may be found, digging up the last detail with 
the zeal of the bom reporter. For Bess was literally cradled in a 
newspaper plant in Nebraska. She has dashed about a lot since then, 
written millions of words, caught the wire in unlikely places, and 
listened to a fearsome amount of political speech-making. She is a 
reporter who catches the drama of what she is doing long before it 
achieves the aura of retrospect. Her profession will never grow stale 
for her. She finds it a daily adventure. Nothing escapes her, and she 
builds up her stories for the Associated Press with a fine mosaic of 
detail. 

Miss Furmar was bom on Main Street, Danbury, Nebraska. A 
sign on her home read the Danbury News, But this was only half the 
story. Behind the editorial front her father functioned as a barber. 
On Saturday, night the townsmen came in to be shaved. They told 
him how many bushels to the acre the wheat was running— all grist 
for the editorial mill. On alternate Saturdays a “scene” was rolled 
down from the ceiling and the dining-room became a photograph 
gallery. There a visiting photographer from Oberlin, Kansas, took 
pictures of the bride-to-be, while Bess’s father showed the samples 
of the wedding invitations and garnered facts for his paper. There 
was always a tramp printer about to spout Shakespeare and tell 
tall stories, and usually a printer’s devil was in the offing, work- 
ing for his board while he went through high school. Bess hung 
around the print shop, doing typesetting, inking, paper folding and 
writing up the children’s birthday parties of the neighborhood. At 



346 Ladies of the Press 

the age of ten she was accepted as a bona fide member of the staff. 
At fifteen she stayed out of school for a year to help her father run 
his paper. Behind the scenes her mother managed the house, brought 
up five children and performed editorial functions in her spare 
moments. 

As a result of her practical experience, Bess was chosen to 
run the Antelope of the State Normal School at Kearney. She 
pitched in at her editorial duties during summer terms and taught in 
winter. From the age of sixteen until she was twenty-two she 
haunted schoolrooms and was nearly lost to journalism altogether. 
But when making up the Antelope in the office of the Kearney 
Daily Hub , she was offered a staff job. It was war-time and the paper 
was short-handed. A veteran Nebraska editor taught her some les- 
sons she never forgot. When the news of the Armistice set the 
country on fire he said, “Get out into this and sop it up.” 

Miss Furman went into the streets, found a huge auto hearse 
carrying a placard “The Kaiser.” Small boys, their faces raddled 
with mud, kicked up their heels all over it, and small girls clung to 
the fenders. Bess sopped things up. She wrote a vivid piece. To this 
day she plunges deep into the feeling of any story and writes with 
animation. She detests stories of a set pattern and is wary of the 
hand-out. 

After her baptism on Armistice Day, she worked off and on for 
the Hub, teaching at intervals. Then she left Kearney to join the 
staff of the Omaha Daily News at $35 a week. For the next ten 
years she had the time of her life. Every day there was something 
doing— red-blooded tales of Fred Brown the Manacle Man; the 
deadly Sniper; the thrice-terrible Axe Murderer; the crime passionnel 
in Little Italy; Louise, the Bootleg Queen; Margaret, the Cigarette 
Heiress; and countless other ups and downs in the social scene. She 
talked to all the visiting celebrities, did rewrite on police-court 
stories, and took a whack at fashions. She was sent to the Black Hills 
to do special features not covered by the press associations when 
President Coolidge established his summer home there. 

In 1929 she landed in Washington with the Associated Press and 
for two years covered the House of Representatives. There another 
of the Press Gallery romances developed. Working on the same 
beat was Robert A. Armstrong, Jr., of the San Francisco Chronicle , 
and they soon were married. 

Miss Furman is the newspaper girl who has most closely tagged 
the wives of Presidents during recent years and is always on hand 
for political conventions. She went with Mrs. Hoover on four cam- 
paign trips and had a hard time wringing any news out of her doings. 



The Ft ess Gallery Today 347 

It was another story when Mrs. Roosevelt entered the White House. 
Miss Furman was able to write with a lavish hand. She went with 
her on her Puerto Rican flying trip. She followed her up White 
Top Mountain one summer day, forgot the time while she was writ- 
ing her story and suddenly realized that she had to get back to file 
her copy. It was late Saturday afternoon. They were off in another 
world. The Sunday papers go to press early on Saturday night. And 
Mrs. Roosevelt was about to leave for another call. 

So she and Corinne R. Frazier, one of her colleagues who was in 
the same plight, hopped out of place in the official procession and 
appealed to the state troopers for aid. They were thrust into a car 
and were rushed down the mountain, siren shrieking. It was a forty- 
mile drive downgrade over a dusty road. Miss Furman clutched her 
hat and her copy. They cut corners at dizzy speed and broke all 
traffic rules. They were in a daze when they came to a stop at last 
at the telegraph office. 

Many times Miss Furman has written her copy in large letters 
going over a bumpy road in a swaying car, or has dashed off bul- 
letins against the side of a train or on somebody’s back. This is a 
trick the press service girls learn, for they file copy day and night 
on an exciting story. Miss Furman has been known to carry on an 
argument with a town marshal and two committee chairmen, all 
insisting she could not be present at a meeting, while she calmly 
batted out her story under their eyes on a portable machine. 

When she is not in the thick of national drama, she enjoys the 
quiet of her home. She likes folk dancing, swimming, tennis, parties, 
her husband’s amateur movies, and she vows she can tat. But when 
the telephone rings and her office is on the wire, Miss Furman 
charges to answer it. She is a newspaper girl who gets the full meas- 
ure of fun out of her work. 

While Bess Furman chronicles Mrs. Roosevelt’s doings for the A.P., 
Ruby Black does the same job for the U.P. In addition, she runs her 
own bureau which furnishes news to papers in Maine, Wisconsin, 
Western New York and Puerto Rico. This means that Miss Black 
catches the Washington scene from every angle— downtown and up 
on the hill. She is a staunch and able member of the Press Gallery 
corps, believes firmly in the rights of her sex and writes with clarity 
and good judgment. 

A congressman asked her once as they rode up in one of the 
Capitol elevators, “Is everything you are writing today the truth?” 

“Everything not enclosed in quotation marks,” said Miss Black 
smartly. 

She can stand her own ground, both with the politicians and her 
colleagues in the Press Gallery. An acknowledged Lucy Stoner, she 



348 Ladies of the Press 

was the first woman to get a passport under her own name. The 
Woman’s Party made hers a test case. She never used it, but it was a 
moral victory. 

She comes from a Texas farm, and had a vague urge to write 
while she was in high school. She went to the University of Texas, 
taught for four years in her native state, then went on to the Uni- 
versity of Colorado, where she took a summer course in journalism. 
Her first newspaper job was on a weekly, the Thornton Hustler. 
She made $6 a week, set type by hand, addressed and folded wrap- 
pers. She got practically all the news, wrote editorials and sold ad- 
vertising. She developed an interest in politics when Jim Ferguson, 
who had been impeached, ran against Lieutenant Governor William 
P. Hobby, who had succeeded him. It was a bitter fight and Hobby 
won. Miss Black’s editor was a Ferguson man. She was local chair- 
man for Mr. Hobby. She wrote and set up the news and editorials 
for her candidate. Her editor did the same for Ferguson. Thus all the 
news on both sides appeared in the paper. 

By 1921 Miss Black was in Chicago running the Woman’s Na- 
tional Journalistic Register, a Theta Sigma Phi placement bureau. 
After five months of this she taught journalism for two years at the 
University of Wisconsin, writing for syndicates and trade journals 
on the side. During this period she met Herbert Little, whom she 
married in the autumn of 1922. When he was transferred to St. 
Louis, she accompanied him there and worked on the St. Louis 
Times. After the 1924 election Mr. Little was transferred to Wash- 
ington by the Scripps-Howard Alliance and she followed him to 
the capital. 

But she found that Washington was the hardest place in the world 
to get a job; the easiest place to get news. She spent a year looking 
for a berth of some sort. She went to every paper in town and most 
of the bureaus. She got tired of being told to come back next week, 
or that girl reporters were not wanted. Miss Black has passionate 
convictions about a woman’s capacity to do any job as well as a man. 

At last she got into a bureau owned by George H. Manning, 
with a string of forty papers and trade journals, including Editor 
and Publisher. She worked there until 1928 and then formed her own 
bureau around the Portland Evening News , a liberal paper which 
had been going for a year. She now has ten papers. Two girls assist 
her. Dorothea Lewis takes over her duties when she is out of town. 
At other times she covers the downtown run and the government 
departments. Gertrude Lee covers the House. Miss Black has demon- 
strated that a woman can run a successful news bureau out of Wash- 
ington, although it is always a precarious venture. Another success- 
ful experiment of the kind is the Griffin News Bureau, run by 



The Press Gallery Today 349 

Isabel Kinnear and her husband, Bulkley S. Griffin. They feed a 
string of ten New England papers. 

Miss Black has to watch the local interests of half a dozen states, 
as well as the broad sweep of the news. She has been asked by local 
editors to do everything from digging up a Washington telephone 
directory to persuading the army to send airplanes to participate in 
the dedication of a municipal airport. She is a level-headed reporter, 
with a good news sense, and is always in the forefront of any group 
of women reporters in Washington, for her personality is dominat- 
ing and decisive, and she is absolutely fearless. 

She and Herbert Little and their small daughter, Cornelia Jane, 
live in a house in Alexandria built in 1780. While she was ransacking 
the attic Miss Black stumbled on the way bills of the old stage coach 
lines that used to pass near the spot where her home stands. Among 
them was a contract to carry mail between Alexandria and Warren- 
town. The engraving of a coach and six at the top of the bill was a 
fascinating spectacle for modern eyes. When Miss Black found a pas- 
senger list that included the name of Robert E. Lee, she decided that 
this was something for the President to own, so she made him a 
present of it. Seven more of these curiosa are mounted and hanging 
in her home. 



[ 350 ] 


Chapter XXVII 

DEBUNKING CAPITOL HILL 


W hen President Roosevelt reviews the Fleet or sets 
off on a speech-making trip with his corps of corre- 
spondents, Doris Fleeson goes along— often the only girl 
in the pack. Next day her paper, the New York Daily News , carries 
thundering banner lines over her name. 

In addition, she and her husband, John O’Donnell, do a joint 
Washington column called “Capital Stuff,” written in the tabloid 
manner with all excess baggage thrown overboard. If there is any- 
thing to be uncovered, that is the angle they play. They make it 
bright and readable. Sometimes it has an impudent note that riles the 
politician. Miss Fleeson steers a free and independent course. She asks 
the most searching questions with a bland air, and is not easily hood- 
winked by the scheming politician. The joint family column made 
its first appearance in August, 1933. They divide the work, worries 
and perquisites of the job, but Miss Fleeson has one advantage over 
her husband. She can cover the President, but he is barred from 
Mrs. Roosevelt’s conferences. 

Early in her newspaper career in New York Miss Fleeson concen- 
trated on a specialty. She covered the city scandals from beginning 
to end. She showed a ready knack for this sort of work, and was 
accepted into the smoking-room fellowship which is an aid to the 
political writer. She landed on the Daily News one November night 
in 1927. Up to that moment her newspaper career had been slow 
getting started. But once under way she leaped ahead like a whirlwind. 
She comes from Sterling, Kansas, and was graduated from the Uni- 
versity of Kansas in 1923. Her first intention was to be a doctor; 
then she majored in journalism and economics. 

In the summer of her junior year in college she worked for the 
Pittsburg Sun , Kansas, covering a school board fight, a strike in the 
coal mines and Phil Campbell’s contest for reelection to Congress. 
After her graduation she traveled East to New Haven, where her 
sister was taking her Ph. D. in the graduate school of Yale. She tried 



Debunking Capitol Hill 35 ! 

to get a newspaper job but the New Haven papers spumed her; so 
she worked in a wire factory making up production schedules and 
pushing them through. Then, in 1925, she tried Chicago, but the 
newspaper doors banged shut in her face. So she lived at the Theta 
Sigma Phi house for $15 a week, which gave her room, breakfast 
and dinner. And in the meantime she worked for a holding company 
to raise the necessary $15. 

In the spring of 1926 she went to work on the Evanston News- 
Index , which has been hospitable to a number of newspaper women 
who later were heard from on metropolitan papers. She was society 
editor and occasionally landed a story on the front page. In the fol- 
lowing December she turned up at Great Neck, Long Island, where 
she became city editor, reporter, copy reader, picture editor, 
make-up man, proofreader and office boy for the Great Neck News . 
Her next move was to New York’s most flourishing tabloid. 

There Miss Fleeson soon emerged as an enterprising and talented 
reporter. She went through all the hoopla of the city room during 
that period. Gun girls, cry baby bandits, magistrates’ courts, and 
breach of promise suits. She chaperoned Bridget Farry during the 
trial of George A. McManus for the murder of Arnold Rothstein. 
Wild Bridget was the scrubwoman from the Park Central Hotel 
who refused to aid the state against her “friend” McManus, whom 
she had never met but whose Irish name sounded like a bit of all 
right to her. She threw a monkey wrench into the trial, baffled the 
judge and was sent to jail as a non-cooperative witness. As soon as 
she was free again, she celebrated by buying herself a new spring 
hat. Bridget made the town laugh. 

Miss Fleeson did La Guardia’s first campaign for the mayoralty 
when he made charges which were then ignored by a public that 
still worshipped Jimmy Walker and reelected him by a conclusive 
majority. During the first Seabury investigation she did some un- 
official sleuthing for Chief Magistrate Corrigan, decking herself out 
as Daisy Smith of Broadway, a gaudy girl. She did an effective job, 
single-handed, on the trials of Magistrate Jean Norris, who was 
found unfit for judicial office, Magistrate Louis B. Brodsky, who 
kept his place on the bench, and Magistrate Jesse Silbermann, who 
was removed from office. The murder of Vivian Gordon, a side 
issue of the investigation, fell to Miss Fleeson and was heavily played 
in her paper. 

By this time she had inherited virtually all the stories linked with 
the city investigation. Her daughter, Doris, was born in March, 
1932, while she was doing the Seabury hearings, but she worked 
almost to the last day, and was back in time for Mayor Walker’s 
dramatic day in court. The Daily News philanthropically gives its 



352 Ladies of the Press 

girl reporters six weeks’ leave on pay while they are having their 
babies. 

Three months after her daughter was born Miss Fleeson was 
writing copy at the conventions in Chicago, and was doing commit- 
tee meetings and women’s features on the side. Next she followed 
Joseph V. McKee and J. P. O’Brien through the mayoralty contest. 
She was at the Democratic State Convention when John F. Curry 
tried to block the nomination of Herbert Lehman to succeed Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt. By this time Miss Fleeson had had a good taste of 
politics at its hottest. She had an alert eye for the dramatic, and 
wrote with vigor. She did the banking crisis of 1933, a difficult story 
to handle. Then she nursed the beer bill through the State Legisla- 
ture and before long was turned loose on the complicated trial of 
Charles E. Mitchell. 

She put over a neat piece of work when Huey Long was biffed 
on the nose by an unknown assailant at Sands Point, Long Island. 
Having lived in the vicinity Doris had enough contacts at the 
Casino to get inside facts, and so missed none of the high points of 
the battle. 

Another girl in the Press Gallery who does not tamely accept 
whatever is handed out to her at its face value is Marguerite Young, 
who did a right-about-face from the conservative haunts of jour- 
nalism to run the Washington bureau of the Daily Worker with her 
husband, Seymour Waldman. Miss Young is a girl of courage and 
conviction. She has done a good job, although perhaps all her hopes 
have not come to pass. The millennium is no more to be found on 
the Daily Worker than the Scripps-Howard chain, for which she 
previously worked. But she and her husband have helped to raise the 
general level of reporting on their paper. 

One day early in 1934, when her work was being featured in the 
World-Telegram and she was holding down what most newspaper 
women would consider a desirable job, she walked up to the city 
desk and handed in her resignation to B. O. McAnney, a city editor 
who has always backed up the girl reporter. 

Miss Young left the Scripps-Howard service with a blast that 
might have jarred Mr. Howard at his dinner table, had he been the 
sort easily put out by the caperings of his staff. In the Daily Worker 
of January 6, 1934, she described the Scripps-Howard “editorial 
sweatshops” as the worst she had seen— in New Orleans, Chicago, 
Washington or New York. Explaining why she left she said: 

The few satisfying stories I could write were at the expense 
of writing uncounted reams of woman-story piffle which 
shamed me as a journalist as well as rendered me a tool in the 
Scripps-Howard process of deadening its vaunted labor readers 



Debunking Capitol Hill 353 

to important events affecting them by drowning them daily in 
sentimental pap. 

Miss Young made the point that she was tired of all-night watches 
for a glimpse of the Mayor’s wife, and of catching early coast guard 
cutters to go down the bay to greet “leisure class horsewomen.” 
She was fed up with “indescribably tortuous and senseless assign- 
ments for a paper that seemed a nightmare of propaganda and dis- 
tortion to the average balanced human being.” 

Miss Young’s early training had been with the conservative A.P., 
and most of her work had been done in Washington. A stranger 
arriving on the same mission might have received a frosty reception, 
but she is personable, intelligent, and was known before for her 
good work. So her reappearance as a Daily Worker representative 
startled no one. It had been pretty well trumpeted. It was an experi- 
ment in journalism, and newspaper people are rarely narrow-minded. 
She was welcomed back into the Press Gallery, where there is more 
of the radical spirit now than there was a few years ago. She was 
not kept from anything she wanted. She had many personal asso- 
ciations that tended to offset political reactions. 

Soon her bureau came to be accepted as a matter of course, al- 
though Department of Justice agents and the local police scan the 
paper regularly for dynamite. Eyebrows shoot up now and again 
when Miss Young asks pointed questions at a conference, but she 
does not believe in wasting any bolts. She rarely disturbs the calm 
of the White House press conference with a disturbing question, 
but when she does, she gets a candid and ready response from the 
President. 

The labor leaders make no special efforts on her behalf. William 
Green has never acknowledged her existence in any shape or form. 
And Frances Perkins treats her as she does the other reporters. 
When the Secretary of Labor has anything to say, everyone gets it 
at once. When something special is wanted from her, she shuts up. 
Although Miss Young threw the searchlight somewhat devastatingly 
on her in an article in the American Mercury , Miss Perkins con- 
tinued to beam on her without a flicker of the pain that she must 
have felt. 

Miss Young has concentrated heavily on relief work and the 
parade of the labor forces. She has worked in Washington through 
a significant era in labor development and although she writes from 
an angle, she has tried to get away from the editorial writing that 
characterized her paper in the past and to cement her stories with a 
solid background of fact. 

She was bom in 1907 on a plantation in Louisiana. Her father 
was a planter originally, but Mississippi River floods, the boll 



354 Ladies of the Press 

weevil, the army worm and the bankers conspired to turn him into 
a contractor building roads and levees by the time Marguerite was 
growing up. And often the family was in financial straits. At the 
state university she joined all the societies but later became a typical 
undergraduate skeptic. She studied journalism, edited a campus paper, 
and plugged for scholastic honors. She was graduated at eighteen. 
Almost at once she got a job on the New Orleans Item-Tribune , 
starting out the first day looking a vision in a black satin dress and 
velvet hat. Her paper had a small staff. She got good breaks from 
the start, and did the general run of news. 

Two years later she landed in New York with $40 and several 
letters of introduction. It was 1928, and it happened that she came 
from a paper that had already furnished the A.P. with two ex- 
cellent women reporters— Ethel Halsey and Martha Dairy mple. She 
saw Kent Cooper. He engaged her at once and sent her to Wash- 
ington to cover women’s features. But Miss Young wanted to do 
more ambitious things. She volunteered to pinch-hit for men tempo- 
rarily absent from their regular runs. In this wav she soon got a 
steady beat of her own. Then she was shifted from one to another, 
until she had done virtually the whole round except the White 
House and Treasury Department. She was an idealist when she 
first arrived in Washington. She was barely twenty-one and was 
stuffed with school-of-joumalism ethics, but she was totally ignorant 
of the processes of government. Disillusionment came when she 
covered the Federal Power Commission investigation. She watched 
the lobbyists and was shocked by the machinations of the poli- 
ticians. 

Miss Young took a leave of absence when she married Mr. Wald- 
man and, when she returned, her job with the A.P. was gone. She 
was just beginning to study Marx, Engels and Lenin when she went 
to work for the Scripps-Howard organization. She was asked to 
submit suggestions for feature interviews. The first person picked 
from her list was Rose Pastor Stokes. She went to see her, was 
stirred by her, began to move in radical circles and soon became a 
Communist herself. 

Mr. Waldman was formerly on the staff of the World, and at one 
time was an instructor in the English Department of the College of 
the City of New York. He is the author of Death and Profits, pub- 
lished in 1932. 

A realist who haunts the Press Gallery and is not fooled by mere 
oratory is Maxine Davis, a newspaper woman and magazine writer 
of perspicacity and experience. Miss Davis writes from behind the 
scenes with an initiated touch. She* literally walked in on her first 
newspaper job. She had badgered most of the city editors in Chicago 



Debunking Capitol Hill 355 

to take her on, with no results. Then one day she invaded the Eve- 
ning Journal , now defunct. She learned the name of the managing 
editor, marched past all the copy boys, and approached his desk. 

Richard Finnegan did not look up from the copy he was reading. 

“Mr. Finnegan, I want a job,” said Miss Davis. 

His eyes were still invisible under his green shade but he shot at 
her, “What experience have you had?” 

“None,” said Miss Davis, “but I am a very bright girl.” 

He stopped writing, pushed back his eye-shade and regarded her 
with sympathy. 

“Oh, are you?” he repeated. “Well, sit down.” 

Miss Davis got a job. Mr. Finnegan needed substitutes over the 
vacation period. This suited her, for she was in college at the time 
and wanted summer work. During her last year she did full time 
work on a morning paper. The most notable event of her early news- 
paper days was an assignment to cover an execution. She did not 
want the job. She has never been interested in crime. She begged 
to be excused. She even wept. But she had to go. She could scarcely 
have been more frightened had she been the criminal herself. At the 
last minute the governor ordered a reprieve. And Maxine promptly 
fainted. 

She was determined to get to New York but whenever she men- 
tioned her ambition her father announced oratorically that he 
would not “have his daughter in that cesspool of humanity.” How- 
ever, she got as far as Washington, landing there one hot day in 
July, at the beginning of the Harding administration. There were no 
jobs to be had, but Miss Davis decided she liked the city. She was 
nearly twenty and she saw that there was time to go home for a 
spell, save up some money, and return later on to launch a news 
service on women in Washington. After four months of diligent 
saving she toured the Middle West and signed up seventeen news- 
papers on a three months’ contract for weekly letters at $5 each. 
At the end of that time only four of the papers were still on the 
string. 

But Miss Davis landed a job on the old Washington Herald and 
kept her four papers, one of which was the Detroit Free Press . 
After she had had some more experience she tried the news service 
idea again on a daily wire and telegraph basis, and fed more than 
sixty papers for several years. Her associate in this venture was 
Dorothy Shumate, who worked for the Evening World for a time. 
The press services did not then have so many women as they do 
today. The United Press got all its Washington women’s copy from 
Miss Davis’s office. In the summer of 1929 she moved to New York 
and became editor of the women’s pages of the Telegram . But this 



3 $6 Ladies of the Tress 

was not the ideal job for her. She wanted to put politics rather than 
beauty hints on the woman’s page, and preferred a story on the 
Einstein theory to a good recipe. 

Her news service suffered when she ran it by long distance tele- 
phone. In the autumn of 1930 she dropped it altogether, left the 
Telegram and went abroad to write about the Indian Round Table 
Conference. Her most dramatic memory of that period was the 
picture of Mahatma Gandhi as he sailed in to Marseilles on his way 
to the conference. His boat was to dock at six in the morning. Miss 
Davis was down at the pier before five. It was raining torrents. The 
P and O liner appeared like a gray cloud sailing past the Chateau 
d’lf. Just as it slid into port, the clouds parted on an incredible 
sunrise. Gandhi stood at the bow, a minute figure in white, sur- 
rounded by a semicircle of Europeans and Indians. His hands were 
clasped in the ordinary Hindu salutation, but it seemed to the specta- 
tors on shore as if the gesture were one of prayer. And just then, 
as if it were stage-managed by some celestial Belasco, a great rain- 
bow spread over the sky and the ship. 

While she was in Europe Miss Davis acted as literary secretary to 
a Frenchwoman who was writing a book for an American publisher. 
It was a general survey of European politics. She went all over the 
continent with her, meeting the leading statesmen of the period. 
When she returned to America in the autumn of 1931 she decided 
to free-lance. Almost immediately she launched a magazine story 
of real news value. At the Children’s Bureau she had stumbled on 
the preliminary report of a study on transient boys— a new problem 
that had not received any publicity up to that time. Again she 
predicted accurately that Frances Perkins was to be Secretary of 
Labor. She sprang the story on the best authority available but 
she worried considerably between the time her article was locked 
up and the Cabinet appointments were announced. 

Miss Davis did a brilliant piece of reporting on the Economic 
Conference in London. She has taken the pulse of America a num- 
ber of times. In the summer of 1935 she started out in a Ford— 
although she had never driven a car before in her life— and traveled 
10,038 miles to write a series of articles on the youth of the country. 
En-route she did three pieces a week for the Washington Post and 
gathered material for a book, The Lost Generation. Miss Davis has 
not missed a presidential convention since she described what the 
wives of the delegates wore at the Harding convention in 1920. 
She is in and out of the Press Gallery and has a genuine flair for 
politics. She would rather do a political story than any other, and 
she writes with equal facility for a newspaper or a magazine. 



Debunking Capitol Hill 357 

One of the most energetic girls in the Gallery today is Lee 
Kreiselman, who scorns black sheets, works tirelessly and feeds 
her paper, the Wichita Beacon , with columns of sound copy. She 
keeps a sharp eye on agriculture and scored a clean beat with the 
McCarl report on the Farm Board in June, 1933. When she finally 
got hold of a copy through her good connections, she worked over 
it until 4.30 in the morning. She tore the report apart, had two 
stenographers copying it and had parts of it photostated. 

Miss Kreiselman is a native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of a high 
school in Akron, Ohio. After she moved to Washington she did 
secretarial work for three years for Senator Henry Allen, former 
owner of the Wichita Beacon. When he retired, she was asked to 
become Washington correspondent for the paper. It was the time 
of the bonus march. She was one of the first reporters on the 
scene. She rescued two burning flags and was slightly gassed while 
the rumpus was going on. Along with Doris Fleeson, she accom- 
panied the President to Annapolis when he reviewed the Fleet in 
1935. She is one of the few women who attend his conferences 
regularly. 

Miss Kreiselman sticks more closely to the Press Gallery than 
most of the women correspondents. She not only listens to speeches 
from the floor but she tests the sincerity of the congressmen later 
by interviewing them on the subjects that have inspired their ora- 
tory. She has never been refused an interview by anyone but 
Frances Perkins. For six weeks she tried to see the Secretary of 
Labor. She submitted a list of questions for her to answer, but they 
were ignored. The ladies of the press have had short shrift from the 
first woman Cabinet member. 

Miss Kreiselman corresponds for the North Western Miller , the 
Binghamton Press , the Five Star Weekly and the American Banker, 
as well as the Wichita Beacon. She is married to Isadore Jaffe, a 
New York lawyer, and commutes back and forth between New 
York and Washington. 

Another correspondent who landed in the Press Gallery through 
secretarial connections is Ned Brunson Harris, who heads the bu- 
reau of the Minneapolis Star. She had a brief whirl at newspaper 
work in Charleston, South Carolina, when she was a mere young- 
ster. Early in life she devoted herself to the Congressional Record, 
making it her Bible. In 1918 she moved from Chattanooga to Wash- 
ington to work in the office of Senator Kenneth D. McKellar of 
Tennessee. In the next few years she was secretary to a succession 
of legislators and got an excellent close-up view of national politics. 
James W. Gerard appointed her assistant treasurer of the Demo- 
cratic National Committee. She went through two national cam- 



358 Ladies of the Press 

paigns in this capacity, functioning chiefly in New York. Then she 
went to work for John Edwin Nevin, of the Minneapolis Star . When 
he died in 1933 she was appointed head of the bureau. 

While the Press Gallery was still practically bereft of women, 
Flora Orr, representing the St. Paul Daily News , the Omaha News , 
the Minneapolis News and two Scripps-Howard papers, became one 
of its habituees. This was in 1923. In the next few years she carried 
on many lively fights. She covered the Teapot Dome inquiry, took 
an active hand in starting the investigation on postal leases and 
pushed her paper’s crusade to clean up St. Paul, which was described 
at the time by the Attorney-General as one of the worst places in 
the country. When three congressmen from Minnesota conspired 
against Miss Orr, because of her newspaper enterprise, her paper 
backed her up. 

“There’s no use your ever coming to us for news,” they said. 

“Always remember that you are first of all a newspaper reporter,” 
her editor told her. 

Miss Orr rounded up an unusual Sunday magazine story for her 
paper when she traced all the descendants of Abraham Lincoln now 
alive. She found six altogether, and it was a singularly difficult 
quest. The idea for the story came to her when she saw an item 
that Mary Lincoln Beckwith, great-granddaughter of Abraham 
Lincoln, was interested in aviation and was trying to get a pilot’s 
license. She thought it would be a comparatively simple matter to 
trace the rest of the family. 

But it was a task even to find out who they were or where they 
lived. And once that was done, no one would talk. All the members 
of the family shunned publicity and the lawyers were afraid to 
divulge anything that might offend them. Friends of the family 
were as inaccessible as the principals themselves. Robert Todd Lin- 
coln, son of the emancipator, had resolutely shielded his children 
from publicity. It was a treasure hunt to find some family photo- 
graphs and dig up details on the doings of the younger generation, 
but Miss Orr was successful and her story made absorbing reading. 

She comes from a newspaper family. Two of her uncles pub- 
lished papers in their youth. Another uncle was a writer, an in- 
ventor and a linguist. A cousin was a city editor in Fond du Lac. 
Her mother was a typesetter for two years before her marriage and 
made an excellent salary for that period. Miss Orr is a graduate of the 
University of Wisconsin. She majored in science and food chemistry, 
a specialty which she has managed to combine with her literary 
work. She was with the Food Administration in its last year. Then 
she moved to New York and was home economics editor of the 
Delineator for two years, before taking her place in the Press Gal- 



Debunking Capitol Hill 359 

lery. She resigned in the spring of 1935 to do publicity for the Re- 
settlement Administration. 

In addition to the regular habitudes of the Press Gallery, a num- 
ber of special writers drop in and out when things are stirring, 
or they are assembling material for articles. In this group are Anne 
O’Hare McCormick, Katherine Dayton, Mrs. Frances Parkinson 
Keyes, Ida M. Tarbell, Mrs. Emily Newell Blair, Anne Hard, Natalie 
Sumner Lincoln, Mildred Adams and Helen Essary, wife of J. Fred 
Essary, of the Baltimore Sun , who does a column for the Washing- 
ton Times . 



[ 3<5o ] 


Chapter XXVlll 

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE 


I N THE FOREIGN FIELD THE LADIES OF THE PRESS HAVE MET ADVEN- 

ture and a few of them have scaled the heights. Dorothy 
Thompson and Anne O’Hare McCormick are two of the finest 
products of journalism. They are internationally known and have 
rolled up sound reputations unequaled by any other American 
newspaper women. 

Both have the gift for walking in where news is breaking and 
getting into the heart of it. Both can write. Neither one ever worked 
in a city room or had a day’s newspaper experience before going to 
Europe. But there the resemblance ends. They function with rare 
independence but with dissimilar methods. 

Mrs. McCormick is small, reddish-haired, quiet in her manner. 
She sits back, observes, analyzes, never participates actively in what 
is going on. She writes with the essayist’s touch. Dorothy Thomp- 
son is tall, impressive and dominates any room she enters. Her copy 
is packed with fact. It is alive, tight-knit, and is always expressive 
of the vigorous character behind it. She cares less for writing than 
for finding things out. The inquiring mind is carried into every 
phase of her existence. Always an able speaker, lately she has de- 
veloped a superb platform manner. The radio gives her another 
medium of expression. She writes for the magazines and does a 
column for the New York Herald Tribune called “On the Record.” 
It is typical of her intellectual force and is something new in the 
way of a column done by a woman. 

In private life Dorothy Thompson is the wife of Sinclair Lewis 
and the mother of Michael Lewis, aged five and a half. She and her 
husband met first at the Foreign Office in Berlin and Mr. Lewis 
pursued her here and there on assignments until she said she would 
marry him. He is proud of her as a newspaper woman but thinks 
the oddest thing about her career is that she has scarcely ever seen 
the inside of a city room. Mr. Lewis is an old newspaper man him- 
self and understands all aspects of the craft. They spend part of the 
year at their home in Bronxville, New York, part of it at their farm 



Foreign Correspondence 361 

in Vermont. They have hosts of friends and occasionally give parties 
which bring together the current celebrities, but they like a quiet 
evening together in their beamed living-room, or in their library, 
where Mr. Lewis, as inquiring as his wife, can dig in a reference 
book to settle some doubt that invades his nimble mind. He is a 
sociable creature until he starts on a book; then he shuts himself up, 
the air thickens with a spate of words and a novel gets born with 
dynamic propulsion. 

But Dorothy Thompson works day in, day out. She has enor- 
mous vitality and moves with irresistible force— a “blue-eyed tor- 
nado,” John Gunther has called her. She is preoccupied with the 
state of the world, the economic system, man’s general indifference 
to his own development. She is less radical than she was fifteen 
years ago. She was never radical in the sense that she liked disorder. 
Miss Thompson has little tolerance for the muddle-headed. She is 
so clear-eyed, so capable herself, that she fails to see why things 
should get in a mess. 

She has watched five revolutions, done dashing things as a corre- 
spondent and has stood unmoved on a balcony under fire, but the 
adventurous moments of her newspaper career seem to her only 
sparks in a great movement. They scarcely live in her memory. She 
is modest about her accomplishments as a foreign correspondent 
and believes that many of the men were better. She was always 
more concerned with the underlying motives and the march of 
history than the spot news of the day. And she never could give a 
story the half-romantic twist that some of her competitors achieved. 
Her dominating passion for facts made her realistic. She acknowl- 
edges that she made various mistakes in judgment, and that she 
was wrong in her estimate of Hitler as a man who could not lead 
Germany. 

But irrespective of her own opinion of her newspaper work, her 
correspondence for the Philadelphia Public Ledger syndicate got 
the highest professional rating, and in eight years her name became 
well known in America. She had the knack of getting exclusive 
stuff— not that she cared about that aspect of it, except for her in- 
tense desire to be in the thick of things. 

Every step of her career has been influenced by her personal life. 
She went to Europe, not to do newspaper work but to get away 
from an irksome situation. She landed in Vienna by chance, and 
suddenly her name was on the front page. She came home in 1928 
as the wife of Sinclair Lewis and turned to magazine work. Again 
she was a success. Each time the wheel has turned, Miss Thompson 
has picked a winner. 

She was bom at Lancaster, New York, of mixed English, Scotch 



362 Ladies of the Press 

and Irish blood, the daughter of a Methodist minister. Her mother 
died while she was a child. She was graduated from Lewis Insti- 
tute, Chicago, in 1911 and from Syracuse University in 1914. Al- 
most at once she went on the stump for suffrage. For three years 
she worked as an organizer in upper New York State. When the 
suffrage amendment was carried, she looked around for something 
to do. She chose advertising, disliked it, then went to Cincinnati to 
do social work, a phase of her career which gave Mr. Lewis some 
of his ammunition on social workers for Ann Vickers . 

When she sailed for Europe she had $150 in her pocket, and the 
idea that she would like to write. She canvassed the newspaper 
offices in London, wrote some pieces on space, got to know some 
members of the craft. One of them told her that things were hap- 
pening in Ireland, so she crossed the Irish Channel and landed on 
the day that Hamar Greenwood became governor. She interviewed 
Terence MacSwiney just before he went to jail on his hunger strike 
—the last interview he ever gave. ‘She returned to London with a 
series of stories, ignorant of how good they were. She told one of 
her colleagues about them and he snapped them up at once. 

Then Miss Thompson went to Paris, and from there to Milan, 
where a metal workers’ strike was in progress. She sopped up facts 
on this, and also so much rain that she fell ill with pneumonia. On her 
return to Paris she went to work for the Red Cross, and was soon 
assigned to go to Budapest to assist Captain James Pedlow, Commis- 
sioner for Hungary. Before leaving she arranged with Wythe Wil- 
liams, of the Paris bureau of the Philadelphia Public Ledger , to act as 
Vienna correspondent for his paper at space rates. 

Again she landed in the thick of things. The Karlist Putsch was 
on. Everything was fresh to her. She quickly learned the ropes and 
wrote vivid copy. In 1922 she had an interview with Dr. Eduard 
Benes, which she considers the best piece of journalism she ever 
did. It was a six-hour talk at Prague just before the Genoa Confer- 
ence, boiled down to a fifteen-hundred-word story of straight ques- 
tion and answer. The premier turned frank, disclosed the policies 
lurking in- his mind, indicated that he favored recognition of Soviet 
Russia and a German moratorium. Miss Thompson’s story was 
played up in the Manchester Guardian, and it affected the whole 
attitude of the British delegation at Genoa. But it attracted little at- 
tention in America, in spite of its significance. Generally speaking, 
Miss Thompson considers the interview the most futile phase of 
journalism. To her it has an artificial element that destroys its value 
as a source of news. She would much rather read Walter Duranty’s 
impressions of Stalin than anything Stalin might say to Mr. Duranty. 

The thing that first drew attention to Miss Thompson’s work 



Foreign Correspondence 363 

was the way in which she stormed the castle of Count Johann 
Esterhazy at Tata Varos and interviewed the Emperor Karl after 
his defeat and the collapse of the second Karlist Putsch in 1922. In- 
stead of working through the usual official channels of the Foreign 
Office and being turned down like her colleagues, she went to 
Captain Pedlow. 

“I want to get into that castle to see the King,” she said. 

“What do you think I am?” Captain Pedlow demanded. 

“An Irishman with a sense of adventure,” said the invincible 
Dorothy. 

Her dismayed competitors saw her ride away with him and they 
knew what it meant. As a Red Cross official he would have entree 
to the castle. They drove through cordons of troops and were ad- 
mitted without trouble. Inside they were warmly received, for they 
were the first persons to bring news from the outside world. The 
entire cabinet was there. A small court had been set up, and royal 
etiquette was maintained. Miss Thompson talked to Zita, and found 
her superb in her attitude under stress. The deposed Empress was 
twenty-six at the time, and pregnant with her eighth child. 

No one interviewed Karl again before his death. Zita entrusted 
Miss Thompson with a message to the Crown Prince Otto, then 
twelve years old. It read: “All well, don’t be anxious. Mama.” 

When she got out she could not put it on the wire, nor could 
she give it to the Embassy. So she sent it by a sleeping car con- 
ductor to M. W. Fodor, of the Manchester Guardian , with whom 
she was in alliance. They had arranged that he should stay in the 
station at Vienna and meet every train coming in from Budapest, 
so that anything Miss Thompson got could be transmitted in this 
way. Mr. Fodor gave Zita’s note to the British Embassy and it was 
delivered to the Crown Prince. Miss Thompson’s own story made 
her rivals gnash their teeth. 

By this time she had established something of a salon in Vienna. 
She believes that the woman correspondent in the foreign field has 
one advantage over a man— she can strengthen her news sources by 
using her home as a gathering place for the men and women who 
make news and write it. This was not difficult in her case, for she 
has the knack of attracting celebrities. Before long diplomats, artists, 
refugees, radicals, deposed grandees, spies, and writers of all kinds 
tramped in and out of her apartment, and news bloomed beside her 
typewriter. In 1923 she married Josef Bard, a Hungarian. Her di- 
vorce from him was made final on the day she met Sinclair Lewis. 

She covered the Balkans, saw the King of Serbia married, was 
almost shot during the counter revolution in Bulgaria. A riot was in 
progress in front of the Palace Hotel. The mob thought that mem- 



364 Ladies of the Press 

bers of the government were in hiding inside. Miss Thompson 
stepped out on the balcony to see what was happening. The light 
shone behind her, outlining her clearly, making her a perfect target. 
Shots were fired at her. A waiter caught her and pulled her in. 
Several times in Europe she was in the thick of street warfare, but 
never had any sense of reality about it. She did not believe that she 
could be shot. 

The correspondents used to gather every evening in the central 
telegraph bureau to study the ticker tape for news. When the story 
of the Pilsudski revolution broke, Miss Thompson heard of it when 
she went to the press room after the opera. Her friend, Mr. Fodor, 
showed up. 

“There’s a revolution in Poland,” he announced. “Pilsudski is 
marching on Warsaw.” 

Miss Thompson was in her evening things. Without waiting to go 
home she went straight to the Polish consul, got a visa, borrowed 
$500 from Sigmund Freud, another of her friends, and rushed for a 
train. Her maid brought a bag and her typewriter to the station, but 
Miss Thompson did not have time to change her things. 

Ninety kilometers out of Warsaw, she got off the train, still in 
her evening gown and satin slippers. The tracks had been mined 
and the train had come to a stop. All the correspondents haggled 
over cars. Karl Decker, Floyd Gibbons and some of the diplomatic 
representatives were with her. They gallantly said, pointing to a 
big Daimler, “You take that.” They went off in whatever was left 
and Miss Thompson and an Italian diplomatic representative climbed 
into the Daimler. But they soon found that the fare would be $60, 
whereas everyone else was traveling free. 

Miss Thompson wouldn’t pay the price. So she picked up an 
ancient Ford and bumped over appalling roads toward Warsaw. It 
was a rainy spring day. At break of dawn they were still nine kilo- 
meters from Warsaw, but the driver was afraid to go farther. So 
Miss Thompson, still in her evening clothes, tramped the rest of the 
way with her companion. 

She had arranged to meet her colleagues at the Europa Hotel, 
but it was opposite the Presidential Palace and was surrounded by a 
cordon of police. So she went to the Bristol instead. Floyd Gib- 
bons’ car had overturned by the wayside. While it was being 
righted, the Daimler flashed by, riddled with bullets. It had gone 
through machine-gun fire. Mr. Gibbons hailed the driver but he 
would not stop. 

When Miss Thompson failed to show up at the Europa, Mr. 
Gibbons was sure she had been killed. But after a bath and a change 



Foreign Correspondence 365 

of costume she went out to see what was doing and met him coming 
out of the Ambassador’s office. 

“My God!” said Mr. Gibbons. “Are you alive?” 

“Yes,” said Miss Thompson. 

“I was sure you were killed. I just told the Minister to investi- 
gate.” He told her about the car. 

“Well, I took the cheap car and saved my life,” said Miss Thomp- 
son. 

The censorship at Warsaw was ironclad, but she circumvented 
it by driving out to a small village and filing her copy there. She 
guessed that the slow-moving bureaucracies of this region would 
not have blanketed the little places with the censorship ban, and her 
assumption was correct. 

In 1925 she left Vienna to head the Public Ledger bureau in Ber- 
lin, one of the two women in Europe to hold down an important 
executive job of this sort. The other was Sigrid Schultz, who is 
still in charge of the Berlin bureau of the Chicago Tribune . Miss 
Thompson did not care for the executive detail of running a bureau, 
nor was she fundamentally interested in daily cables. She was more 
concerned with the evolution of ideas in practical politics. Her 
conception of good foreign correspondence is the type of dis- 
patch that would give the complete social, diplomatic and economic 
history of a country, if assembled over a period of years. Spot news 
and the constant striving for scoops seem to her to create a false 
picture in the foreign field and nothing bores her more than the 
stunt journalist. 

She was constantly amazed by the utter failure of the American 
diplomatic representatives to work with the press. On the other 
hand, she found Chancellor Gustave Streseman’s Friday afternoon 
teas for the press, first suggested by Joseph E. Shaplen of the 
New York Times , a sound and genial way of cutting through red 
tape and establishing frank relations. She has never found the in- 
direct approach a good journalistic device. Frankness is her natural 
habit. 

It was in the summer of 1927 that Miss Thompson met Sinclair 
Lewis at the Foreign Office. Then H. R. Knickerbocker brought 
him to her flat for dinner. Edgar Ansel Mowrer was there and so 
was Michael Karolyi, former president of the Hungarian Republic. 
Mr. Lewis proposed as soon as the dessert and coffee were out of 
the way. Miss Thompson thought it was apt, as she had just got her 
divorce and it was also her birthday. She turned him down but he 
told her he would keep on proposing. After that he was constantly 
on her doorstep. 

She flew to cover the riots in Vienna that summer and took Mr. 



368 Ladies of the Press 

correspondence for the Times. Mr. Van Anda, slightly myopic 
where newspaper women were concerned, responded on this occa- 
sion: “Try it.” And thus one of the best foreign correspondents, men 
or women, got her start. Mrs. McCormick soon showed a real gift 
for newspaper writing and made a fixed arrangement with the Times . 
She can move about as she likes. Her footsteps are never tied. She is 
likely to turn up wherever an event of international importance is 
brewing. She is an interpretative reporter with an excellent sense 
of proportion and she has the knack of finding out what the average 
man is thinking of the political machinery that hedges him in. She 
browses among the book stalls of a street paved eighteen centuries 
ago, looking for copy, or drops in at a trattoria and subtly extracts 
from the padrone his views on taxes, government and war. She finds 
out what the shopkeepers as well as the diplomats think and syn- 
thesizes her impressions in lucid and readable terms. 

Mrs. McCormick covers little spot news, although now and again 
her work appears in the daily paper. But she writes essentially in 
the magazine vein, and often quite poetically, as she did after listen- 
ing to Beethoven and Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” played in the 
Forum on a moonlit night: 

Softly, in the soft Roman night, the violins sang the loveliest 
phrases in the adagio movement of the Eroica symphony. It 
was full moon, and the sound was like the moonlight put to 
music, the silver voice of the silver light that flooded the vast 
arches overhead, poured down the deep hollow behind, swept 
the ancient terraces beyond so that each cypress and stone pine 
stood listening in a separate radiance. 

Mrs. McCormick can pick up the theme in any capital in Europe. 
She writes of the Turk or the Frenchman with equal perspicacity 
and good sense. Her personal convictions do not drown her critical 
faculties. She is a roving correspondent of rare quality. She brings 
the same touch to bear on the American scene. In 1930 she wrote 
of the promise of the New South. Five years earlier she described 
the Florida boom. But she rarely goes outside of politics now. She 
has become a specialist in this field. In the summer of 1936 she be- 
came a regular contributor to the editorial page of the Times , an- 
other landmark for women in journalism. 

Twenty years ago Alice Rohe, sister-in-law of Roy Howard, 
pioneered in Rome as correspondent and bureau manager for the 
United Press. At that time the reporters sat in the Sala della Stampa 
and waited for the Italian papers to inform them of what was going 
on. But she had had five years’ traihing under Charles Chapin, of the 
Evening World , and had done newspaper work in the West, so she 



• Foreign Correspondence 369 

went out and hustled for news. She did not know a word of Italian, 
but coped successfully in her first year with the Avezzano earth- 
quake, Italy’s entrance into the war, and the Porter Charlton trial at 
Como in 1915. This was the case of the young American bank clerk 
who killed his wife and sank her body deep into Lake Como in 
a trunk. 

Miss Rohe found it difficult to make the gallant Italians understand 
that she was more interested in getting the news than a compliment. 
It took persistence to break through the waves of “ bellas ” and 
“ simpaticas ” to find out what was going on. When she went to 
Como for the trial, a rival agency spread the report that she was 
German and that the United Press was subsidized by German money. 
She had to cross the Swiss border to file her telegrams and she was 
constantly being stopped on one pretext or another. On the day the 
verdict was due, she was held up at Chiasso and was refused per- 
mission to enter with her cable. She was told that the only em- 
ployee who talked English was not there and that they feared her 
story might contain some anti-Italian news. She offered to trans- 
late it and an officer listened. But on her return she was seized 
again, searched and forced to strip. The idea was to keep her from 
getting to Como in time for the verdict. Miss Rohe caught the last 
electric car to Como. When the verdict of guilty came in, she had 
an automobile waiting and got to Chiasso so fast that she scooped her 
rivals. It created considerable stir in Italy that a woman should be 
covering a murder trial for an American news agency. 

Miss Rohe returned to Italy in 1922 to pursue her hobby, which 
is Etruscology, and found as she moved around that Fascism was 
taking hold of the Italian people. She was one of the first to spot 
Mussolini as the future leader of Italy. The other correspondents 
scoffed at her belief in him, as they had in Mrs. McCormick’s case. 
She did some interviews with him, which she had to submit for his 
approval. He expressed surprise at her knowledge of the political 
situation. 

“But why shouldn’t I understand?” Miss Rohe demanded. 

“Oh, you’re a woman,” said Mussolini. 

“I’m sorry you said that,” Miss Rohe retorted. “Up to now I 
thought you the most intelligent person I had ever interviewed.” 

Miss Rohe’s interviews appeared in the New York Times in the 
summer of 1922, before he was premier. They outlined his complete 
program of Fascism, a significant story to get at the time. In the same 
summer she got the last interview Sarah Bernhardt gave before her 
death. Three weeks later she persuaded Duse to break her long 
silence in an interview at Leghorn. Then she did some articles on 



370 Ladies of the Press » 

Pirandello and translated his Mm, Beast and Virtue, which was 
produced in New York as Say It With Flowers. 

Miss Rohe wandered all over Europe in quest of news. For a time 
she specialized in royalty. She interviewed Queen Marie in 1919 and 
was decorated by the Rumanian government. She talked to King 
Alexander of Greece and launched the story of his love for Ethel 
Kelly, an American girl. She smuggled the story through a secret 
channel to Floyd Gibbons, then manager of the Paris edition of the 
Chicago Tribune . He paid her $100 for it and after she had returned 
to America, he cabled offering her the post of correspondent at 
Rome for his paper. Miss Rohe was the first correspondent to reveal 
the liaison between Prince Carol of Rumania and Zizi Lambrino. 

She interviewed Rodin, Maeterlinck, Cardinal Gasparri and scores 
of other celebrities during her years in Europe. In the war days she 
was stoned in Ravenna because of her passion for antiquities. She was 
examining an ancient tower when the cry was raised that she was 
a spy. Again she was imprisoned at Rimini en route to San Marino 
with her camera, when she was bent merely on the pacific mission 
of writing a piece for the National Geographic Magazine. Miss Rohe 
visited the Isle of Lesbos and wrote some articles on the attempts 
to whitewash Sappho. Her story on the now famous Venus of 
Cyrene was the first on the subject printed in America. It appeared 
in Vanity Fair and in fuller context in the Kansas City Star . 

Miss Rohe is a native of Lawrence, Kansas, and a graduate of 
Kansas State University. She did her first newspaper work for the 
Kansas City Star . Then she moved East and was advertised by the 
New York Evening World as its woman humorist when she con- 
ducted a column called “The Girl From Kansas.” After five years of 
strenuous effort she had to go to Denver for her health. There she 
worked on the Post , the Times and the Rocky Mountain News. She 
did drama, music, books and general news. Cured of tuberculosis she 
went to Rome in 1914, the first woman to head a bureau for one of 
the big news agencies. This also included being correspondent for 
the Exchmge Telegraph of London, which demanded a different 
type of news. 

Miss Rohe launched the dramatic, book and art departments of 
the United Press. She has worked for NEA, NANA and various 
American newspapers and magazines. She spends her time between 
Italy and America. In the autumn of 1935, when the Ethiopian situa- 
tion was boiling, she had another talk with Mussolini, which made 
the front pages in New York. She still pursues her studies in Etrus- 
cology. Her sister, Margaret, wrote fashions before she married Roy 
Howard. She did weekly letters for the U.P., using the name Mar- 
garet Mason. 



Foreign Correspondence 371 

But the U.P. has always been slow to employ women for straight 
news coverage. Among the few who managed to batter their way 
into the foreign service was Mrs. Lucile Saunders McDonald, who 
got her newspaper training on small papers in Oregon and on the 
Oregonian . She went to South America in 1920 and was soon m 
the thick of news events. She became night editor of the U.P. in 
Buenos Aires at a time when there were no other women in news- 
paper work on the entire South American continent, except a few 
who contributed social notes to the Spanish papers. Mrs. McDonald’s 
arrest on her way home from work at two o’clock one morning 
nearly provoked a diplomatic incident. 

She rode nine days on horseback to the lost Inca city of Macchu 
Pichu in Peru, and did five Sunday features on what she saw. Again 
she investigated the authenticity of a Plesiosaurus which was said to 
inhabit an Andean lake on the western fringe of Patagonia. This 
story caused such a sensation that the U.P. was preparing to send 
her into the wilds with a museum expedition when the existence of 
the prehistoric monster was found to be purely mythical. Like the 
Loch Ness monster, it had had its day in the headlines. 

She was trying to sell her press service in Asuncion, Paraguay, the 
day two of the local publishers decided to overthrow the prevailing 
government. Things were no less exciting when she went later to 
Turkey and sent back dispatches to the New York Times. There the 
only American correspondents in the field were women. Priscilla 
Ring, who spoke Turkish, took her under her wing. On one occa- 
sion she found herself in the Turkish ministry of public works at 
Angora without a Turkish dictionary or an interpreter, and with 
only half an hour to catch her train. But she got her story. She 
covered the Kurdish revolt in 1931, when no correspondents, Turk- 
ish or otherwise, were permitted in the disturbed sector. Reports had 
to be obtained from meager bulletins issued to the Istanbul morning 
papers. Mrs. McDonald lived on a hillside street in Istanbul over- 
looking a mosque which was no longer used as a place of worship, 
although the imam mounted the minaret daily and chanted the call 
to prayer. This was to camouflage the fact that small arms munitions 
were being unloaded at the mosque boat-landing on the Bosphorus, 
and were being stored in the church. 

One afternoon she saw a puff of smoke go up through the roof 
of one of the buildings in the mosque courtyard, followed by a series 
of explosions that went on for half an hour. The hills along the Bos- 
phorus were black with spectators. Street cars stopped running. The 
army was called out to extinguish the fire. Mrs. McDonald had a 
bird’s-eye view of everything that went on. The minarets stood in- 
tact and the blaze finally was controlled. But when she tried to get 



372 Ladies of the Tress 

statistics on the casualties, she was told coldly that there had not 
been a fire. She was headed off at every point. As military stores 
were involved, the hush policy was invoked. Although the local 
papers ignored this startling event, the New York Times ran Mrs. 
McDonald’s dispatch detailing what she had seen. 

When her husband’s business took them to Alaska, she edited the 
Cordova Daily Times there and covered South Central Alaska for 
the Associated Press. She got a twenty-four hour scoop on the first 
expedition to scale Mount Logan successfully, although a chain of 
Canadian papers had backed the expedition and the story seemed 
sewed up. The leader of the adventure was on bad terms with his 
men, and they did not come out of the interior together. Mrs. Mc- 
Donald got hold of one of the party in Cordova, while the head 
of the expedition stayed at Chitina, sending out a lengthy cable 
which did not arrive until twenty-four hours after her short takes 
had reached the A.P. 

Mrs. McDonald has done newspaper work in New York, in addi- 
tion to her foreign correspondence. She now lives in Wenatchee, 
Washington, still writes, and has a small son. Her foreign corre- 
spondence followed the trail of her husband’s business connections 
in different parts of the world. 

The stories carried by the New York Herald Tribune from Rome 
during the Ethiopian crisis were handled by Sonia Tomara, a slim 
Russian girl who speaks eight languages, can take a story over the 
telephone from any country in Europe, and has a shrewd grasp of 
international affairs. 

Miss Tomara is a White Russian whose family owned large estates 
in the Caucasus before the revolution. She escaped with a sister and 
traveled by freight trains from St. Petersburg to the south. Once 
they were ordered shot by a nineteen-year-old Bolshevist general. 
Miss Tomara sailed from Batoum on a United States destroyer, 
after appealing to the captain for aid. Because she spoke Turkish 
she landed a job in Constantinople with the British High Commis- 
sion. A year later she arrived in Paris with 150 francs and was taken 
on Le Matin . At first she was secretary to Jules Sauerwein, then his 
first assistant. After six years of this, Leland Stowe, head of the 
Paris bureau of the Herald Tribune , took her on his staff in 1928. 
When John T. Whitaker, the Rome correspondent, set out for 
Ethiopia, Mr. Stowe sent Miss Tomara to the Italian capital to sub- 
stitute for him. She landed at a moment when news was breaking 
fast, and soon her stories were leading the paper, some days with 
three-column heads, a rare distinction for a woman in the foreign 
field. 

When she first made her American connection Miss Tomara did 



Foreign Correspondence 373 

a weekly financial review for the Herald Tribune and other part 
time work, for she is an expert on financial and economic subjects as 
well as on art and music. But as time went on she became regularly 
attached to the staff. When President Doumer was assassinated she 
was one of the first reporters on the scene. She had only three 
blocks to go from her office. She got into Beaujon hospital, inter- 
viewed the doctors and rounded up the details with speed and thor- 
oughness. By chance she was in Munich at the time of the Hitler 
revolution, telephoned out some stories, and on her return wrote 
some of the first uncensored accounts of the persecution of the Jews. 
Later she went to Frankfort and developed the return-to-the-ghetto 
theme. 

When Yancey and Williams landed in Spain after their trans- 
Atlantic flight Miss Tomara took the story over the telephone from 
a Santander reporter because she could switch from French to Span- 
ish without turning a hair. She does the same thing when a story is 
sought by telephone from Germany or Italy. This is invaluable in 
a foreign bureau. Miss Tomara is a hard worker and a shrewd politi- 
cal commentator. She knows how to assemble facts and she under- 
stands political trends. She responds quickly to a dramatic story, 
such as the riots in Paris during February, 1934, on which she did 
excellent work. She is now a naturalized Frenchwoman. 

A number of women have functioned successfully in the foreign 
bureaus of the Herald Tribune . Elizabeth Keen, like her husband, 
Victor Keen, often makes the front page from Shanghai. Julie Roths- 
child does features from Berlin and Norah Thompson (now Mrs. 
Walter Millis) did similar work from London when Arthur S. 
Draper was head of the bureau. 

Martha Dalrymple, wife of Joseph B. Phillips, Moscow corre- 
spondent of the Herald Tribune , has done excellent work on both 
sides of the Atlantic. She conquered opposition to women reporters 
in the London bureau of the Associated Press, and proved to the 
Italian gallants that an American girl could cover the collapse of the 
ceiling of the Vatican library or the visit of Secretary of State Stim- 
son to Rome as well as the male of the species. 

Miss Dalrymple broke into newspaper work when she was an 
undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. She got a summer 
job on the Chicago Journal from the same Richard Finnegan who 
gave Maxine Davis her newspaper start. Her first assignment was to 
do some work on the Leopold-Loeb trial. She was nineteen years old 
and was much impressed that she should be permitted to telephone 
in the stories of the stars on her paper. 

After her graduation in 1925 she was taken regularly on the staff. 
She began to meet movie stars as they changed trains in Chicago on 



374 Ladies of the Press 

their way from Hollywood to New York. When Charlie Chaplin 
asked her to dinner one night, she thought that life could hold no 
more. 

The gangs were doing well at the time and Miss Dalrymple found 
herself covering the trial of Marty Durkin, the police killer. Once, 
when she was out on the North Side on a story and called her office 
for further instructions, the city editor grabbed the receiver from 
his assistant and yelled to her to go around the comer from her 
telephone booth to cover a shooting. He hung up without further 
ceremony. Miss Dalrymple arrived at the spot neck to neck with an 
ambulance. Something spattered on her stockings. She later found 
that it was the blood of the two men who had been killed by 
machine-gun fire from a second-story window. Her enthusiasm for 
life among the gangsters waned. 

She wanted to work in New York and started out by the round- 
about route of New Orleans, where she landed on the Item-Tribune . 
The 1927 flood occurred almost at the moment of her arrival. During 
this period she got a stiff training in rewrite, which was useful later 
in her foreign correspondence. Then she was put on the dramatic 
desk, and learned to make up the Sunday dramatic page. But she 
didn’t linger in New Orleans. She was on her way to New York. 
A letter of introduction landed her with the Associated Press. When 
the 1928 Presidential campaign got under way she was one of the 
girls who benefited by the A.P. decision to assign a woman to each 
candidate. She and June Rhodes, who was doing publicity for the 
Democrats, were the only unattached women on A 1 Smith’s special 
train. 

By the time President Hoover had been inaugurated Miss Dal- 
rymple was working regularly in Washington. Again she was picked 
to pioneer. The A.P. had decided to try women in its foreign service. 
She was sent to the London bureau and Mary Bainbridge Hayden to 
Berlin. Her welcome in London was not cordial. Although the A.P. 
men themselves had no particular prejudice against women, the news 
sources all over Europe had. In England and France the antagonism 
is now moderating slightly, and here and there women cover big 
news stories, but they are not much in demand in the bureaus for 
diplomatic or political reporting. The British Foreign office is defi- 
nitely averse to the indignity of imparting its secrets to a newspaper 
woman. 

When she was coldly received in her new surroundings Miss Dal- 
rymple felt like bursting into tears, but instead she smiled at the 
staff and went to work. Martha is one of the more irresistible mem- 
bers of the profession. For a week she crept mousily from desk to 
desk, from machine to machine, finding out how a foreign bureau 



Foreign Correspondence 375 

worked, how it cleared the news of two continents and sent it to 
New York. At the end of a week she was taken for granted and 
got a few assignments, but mostly of the feminine type. 

She was forced to concentrate on the women Members of Par- 
liament. After she had dished them up in all variations and disguises, 
there was little left for her to do in this key, so she looked about for 
something more substantial and soon was taking her turn on the 
desk, like any of the men. She even braved the Foreign Office and 
covered international conferences. Bit by bit she edged her way 
into the confidence of the men with whom she worked. 

After two years in London she got word that she was to be trans- 
ferred to New York. In the meantime she had married Mr. Phillips, 
whom she had met at the Naval Conference. When he was trans- 
ferred to Rome she became correspondent there for the New York 
Evening Post . She returned to Washington briefly during the first 
year of the Roosevelt administration and went to work in the po- 
litical bureau of the Washington Post . After six months she re- 
turned to Rome and then went on to Moscow with her husband. 

Another of the foreign stars of the Associated Press is Adelaide 
Kerr, who covered first string news as well as fashions in Paris from 
1930 until 1936, when she returned to the New York office, where 
she had worked for three years before going abroad. The first story 
of any consequence that she did in Paris involved a brush with the 
French police. The body of Marshal Joffre was lying in state in the 
£cole Militaire. When she arrived early in the morning to cover the 
story, the police refused to admit her ahead of a great crowd already 
waiting. She had no police card to aid her. She argued as long as 
she could in her limited French, then broke away and ran, with the 
gendarme at her heels. She reached the door just as it was thrown 
open. She slipped inside and joined the queue beginning to file past 
the bier. To keep from being hurried along with the crowd, she 
kept untying and retying her shoe lace, thus getting time to look 
around. Then she slipped out through another door and went back 
to the office to write the story that got her her first European 
by-line. 

One of her most dramatic stories was the arrival of the Spanish 
royal family in Paris when they fled to exile in 1931. A silent throng 
packed the station. Queen Victoria walked through it with a tragic 
face, treading on a long carpet of royal red velvet that the French 
had unrolled for her. Behind her came the children, her black robed 
ladies-in-waiting and a nun. Since then Miss Kerr has covered their 
activities in France. She had a beat when King Alfonso thwarted the 
attempt of his second son, Infante Jaime, to elope with a girl not of 
royal rank. Again she called on Infanta Eulalia, Alfonso’s aunt, and 



37 6 Ladies of the Press 

got from her the exclusive story of her trunk of jewels which had 
been lost and had reappeared mysteriously in Madrid. She also broke 
the story when an amicable separation was arranged between Al- 
fonso and his consort. 

Miss Kerr covered the wedding of Jose Laval and Count Ren6 
de Chambrun in the summer of 1935. She wrote columns on the 
troubled romance of the Count of Covadonga, eldest son of Alfonso, 
and Senorita Edelmira Sampedro; and of the Count of Paris, son 
of the pretender to the throne of France, and Princess Isabelle of 
Orleans-Braganza. 

She was in the thick of the riot which broke up the International 
Peace Conference at the Trocadero in Paris in 1931. Four years later, 
when French fonctionnaires staged a demonstration over Premier 
LavaPs decree cutting their salaries, she was one of the reporters 
covering the story in the avenue de l’Opera. The crowd was march- 
ing in a mass, clenched fists raised in the Communist salute, shouting 
and singing the Marseillaise. The police charged, scattering them into 
side streets. Miss Kerr ran into a little shop to telephone. When she 
had finished, the proprietor, who had been hastily closing his shut- 
ters, insisted that she remain inside, since he was sure something 
would happen to her if she went out. It took several minutes of rapid 
French to convince him that she had to go. She was a journaliste. 

The Associated Press has had women at the head of two of its 
European bureaus in recent years— Marylla Chrzanowska at War- 
saw, working under the direction of the Berlin office, and Priscilla 
Ring, a fine correspondent who was chief of the bureau at Istanbul 
until her health gave out. She is the daughter of a naval officer and 
she first went to Turkey to work at Roberts College. She started 
as an assistant in the A.P. bureau but did excellent work and was 
soon in charge. She was sent to Greece when Samuel Insull was 
playing hide and seek with the law, and managed to get an exclusive 
interview with him. On one occasion she covered a mass hanging 
of nineteen persons in Turkey. 

Mary Knight, an Atlanta girl, surprised even her own colleagues 
by dressing as a boy and getting in with the newspaper men to 
watch the execution of President Doumer’s assassin. Not since the 
days when knitting needles clicked during the French Revolution 
had a woman gone out of her way to see a guillotining. Miss Knight 
wrote the story for the United Press. She is now doing feature stories 
on this side of the Atlantic. 

There is no more capable newspaper woman in Europe today than 
Sigrid Schultz, who heads the Berlin bureau of the Chicago Tribune . 
She went through the difficult war days with independence of spirit 
and an infallible news sense. Her dispatches on the Kaiser were so 



Foreign Correspondence 377 

fearless that she was called on to report twice a day to the police in 
Berlin. Miss Schultz, like Miss Tomara, is a linguist, speaking ten 
languages with ease. She has handled big news for So long that it is a 
commonplace for her to lead the paper. Her stories are copied, 
quoted and commented on by the European press. She has inter- 
viewed nearly every notable in Germany. She went through the hec- 
tic days of the revolution and watched the rise of Nazism. In 1926 
she went to Warsaw to report the Polish-German trouble in upper 
Silesia. 

Miss Schultz worked as George Seldes’ secretary before becoming 
a foreign correspondent, so that she knew all the ins and outs of the 
profession when she inherited the job. She lives with her mother 
and, just as Dorothy Thompson used to do, she entertains a great 
deal in her home, thus keeping her news sources well built up. She 
handles her bureau admirably and men work for her without any 
friction. She is popular with all her colleagues and is the only 
American newspaper woman running a new r s bureau in Europe 
today. 

The woman correspondent has not been encouraged at the battle 
front. Both Rheta Childe Dorr and Sophie Treadwell found them- 
selves facing insurmountable difficulties in France. The only woman 
to get a properly accredited pass from the War Department was 
Peggy Hull. When America entered the war Miss Hull made up 
her mind that she would go to France. She had just completed an 
advertising stunt for the Cleveland Plain Dealer by having herself 
held up by a masked bandit to advertise a bank. 

But she had trouble getting a paper to back her up on war cor- 
respondence. When she reached France she found allies in Floyd 
Gibbons, Ring W. Lardner, George Pattullo and Webb Miller. She 
saw the first American troops parade in Paris. She visited their 
camps and spent two months with an infantry brigade. In the sum- 
mer of 1918 she had to rush back to America because her mother 
was ill. As soon as she was well again, Miss Hull made tracks for the 
War Department. She found that an expedition was going to Siberia. 
She queried fifty editors, offering them her services as correspondent. 
Finally NEA assigned her and she got her credentials through Gen- 
eral Peyton March. A few days later she started off for Siberia, 
armed with the first war correspondent's pass granted to a woman 
by the War Department. She spent the next ten months with the 
American troops and learned something about war. 

Russia has been the focusing point of a number of women corre- 
spondents— Anna Louise Strong, Rayna Prohme, Rheta Childe Dorr, 
Bessie Beatty, Clare Sheridan, Milly Bennett Mitchell and Louise 



378 Ladies of the Tress 

Bryant. Some of them have been more engrossed in the radical cause 
than in journalism but they have all had fiery careers. 

Anna Louise Strong was persuaded by Lincoln Steffens in Blanc’* 
caf6 in Seattle to go to Russia. She had been writing for the Seattle 
Daily Call on the I.W.W. and other labor activities. Accepting his 
suggestion she sailed for Russia. In 1920 she was corresponding for 
the I.N.S. and was writing for the labor press as Anise. In 1929 she 
organized the Moscow News , asked Bill Prohme and Milly Mitchell 
to join her and fought many battles over the direction of the paper. 
Like Mary Heaton Vorse, who wrote for the Globe and The Masses, 
she backed the radical cause and turned out copy fluently in defense 
of her theories. 

Louise Bryant was a native of San Francisco, a talented and fasci- 
nating girl who wrote for the Hearst services during the early days 
of the Russian revolution. She knew Lenin well and liked him. 
At one time or another she met all the dominant figures of the 
revolution. Her life was one of excitement and high journalistic 
fervor during the days that she was married to John Reed, whose 
ashes now lie beside the Kremlin. Two years after his death she met 
William C. Bullitt while he was engaged on a special mission to Rus- 
sia for the American government. She married him in 1923 and they 
were divorced in 1930. 

Miss Bryant was one of the ardent spirits of the revolution, like 
Rayna Prohme, the heroine of Vincent Sheean’s Personal History. 
She was an enthusiast whose journalism was heavily tinctured by her 
personal convictions. She was well known in Greenwich Village, 
on the Left Bank and wherever radical thought foregathered, but 
little was heard of her in the few years preceding her death. Life 
flamed high for her, then burned low. She represented an era in 
journalism which seems to have come to an end. 



[ 379 ] 


Chapter XXIX 

THE WOMAN COLUMNIST 


“Beloved, question me not whence I have learned of men, his 
secrets. Have I not known one man well? And verily a woman 
need know but one man in order to understand all men; whereas 
a man may know women and understand not one of them.” 

H elen Rowland writes her column in modern parables. 
She is a columnist of wit and understanding. Three husbands 
have helped her to form her conclusions on men, but her 
style is distinctly her own. 

When she took some of her earlier syndicated dialogue to a pub- 
lisher, he glanced over the manuscript, looked disgusted and ex- 
claimed, “My God! Another book on women! Isn’t there anything 
funny about a man?” 

Miss Rowland clutched the arm of her chair. She felt as if light- 
ning had struck her. Here was something she could do. If there was 
one subject on which she felt well informed, it was man. Except for 
a few old jokes about drunks and hicks, they had simply been getting 
away with it, so far as the newspapers were concerned. The hus- 
band, the lover, the bachelor— a rich field for satire. Miss Rowland 
went out of the office with zip. Her mind was already at work. The 
bored editor had handed her a fresh idea. Next day “Reflections of 
a Bachelor Girl” was born. And for years thereafter she wrote about 
men. She thought they would hate her. They didn’t. They ate it 
up and liked it. She got four times as many fan letters from men 
as from women. Few of them were protests. They came from law- 
yers, judges, doctors, actors, business men— all types. Miss Rowland’s 
column has never been successfully copied, for she has an individual 
wit and an easy cynicism on men, marriage and love. Her aphorisms 
are usually as brilliant as they are bitter. 

She was born in Washington of Virginia parents. She worried 
little about her education, which took her through public schools 
in Washington, private schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and Emerson 
College, Boston, where her instructor in English literature was Ralph 
Waldo Trine, author of In Tune with the Infinite. At different times 



380 Ladies of the Press 

during her adolescence she had three burning ambitions. She wanted 
to be an actress and play Hamlet. She wanted to be a nun. But most 
of all she longed to be a circus rider and gallop in tarletan skirts on 
a white horse. At no time did she think of writing. However, at 
sixteen she was turning out verse and dialogue and selling it to the 
Washington Post. The managing editor at the time was Scott Bone. 
Her first professional effort was a satirical dialogue, inspired by a 
vain young man. He had come to call on Miss Rowland, who already 
had a devastating eye for life’s absurdities. He spent the evening tell- 
ing her what he would require of the girl he married. She would have 
to have youth, beauty, a perfect disposition, domestic ability and 
the brains to help him in his career. She would also have to be will- 
ing to live on his meager salary as a professor. Then he informed her 
that she would do. In short, she was the lucky girl. 

After he had gone and she had finished laughing, she went to her 
room and jotted down her first satirical wisecracks. She got $3 for 
the effort. When she proudly showed the check to her father, he 
was furious and ordered her to return it at once to the editor with 
the crushing information that Lee Rowland’s daughter did not write 
for money. That gave her the chance to meet Mr. Bone, who en- 
couraged her to go on writing. His answer to her father’s observa- 
tion was: “What we consider worth printing, we consider worth 
paying for. Do anything you please with the check— give it to 
charity or go to a matinee, but don’t leave it around here.” 

So big-hearted Helen went to the matinee. 

After that she did interviews for the Washington Post , sold some 
verse to Tom Masson, which was published in Life , and turned out 
several short stories, which appeared in the lighter magazines. When 
her father died she had to settle down seriously to work. So she 
packed up and left for New York, determined not to be a newspaper 
writer. She preferred the magazines. She went to the Century and 
asked for a place on the editorial staff. She was courteously received 
and sent on her way with a letter of introduction to the Sunday 
editor of the Press . 

She was young, southern, good-looking, romantic and in deep 
mourning. The combination was irresistible. She got a job. Or, more 
precisely, one was made for her. The editor was a brilliant young 
man who taught her most of what she knows about writing. At first 
he tried to make a straight newspaper woman of her but gave up in 
despair. She wrote nearly everything that a Sunday paper runs— 
fashions, features, editorials, verse, fillers and her own dialogue. 

That went on for a year. Her nfext job was matrimony, but it had 
a short run. However, it gave her enough material to start her on 



The Woman Columnist 381 

her column of cynical reflections. Two succeeding husbands have 
helped to keep it going. When her first marriage began to waver, 
she launched a weekly dialogue for the Sunday papers and conceived 
the bright idea of syndicating it herself. S. S. McClure noticed 
it here and there throughout the country and offered to syndi- 
cate it for her. Since she hated work, she sank happily into the cush- 
ioned ease of the established syndicate. This was “Widow Worda- 
logues” which, like all of Miss Rowland’s subsequent output, sold 
well. Then came “The Sayings of Mrs. Solomon,” which was even 
more popular. At this time her work appeared in the Evening World 
in New York. After eleven years with McClure she moved over to 
the Wheeler syndicate. She changed the title of her column to. 
“Meditations of a Married Woman” but it was essentially the same 
feature. 

In 1924 she joined King Features. Her salary was trebled at the 
start. Her column soon became the “Marry-Go-Round.” Her. 
ingenuity is inexhaustible and her tabloid wisdom is read and quoted 
by thousands throughout the country. It isn’t fare for romantics. 
Miss Rowland talks as well as she writes. She has had opportunities 
to do magazine and playwriting, but she prefers her daily column. 
She sticks to her satirical comment on men and believes in special- 
ization for every newspaper writer. Her advice to beginners is: 

Get a typewriter 

Get a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus 

Get a specialty. 

Miss Rowland has had eight books published— collections of her 
syndicated columns. They have sold well as gift books— dynamite 
for wives to try on their husbands in bitter moments. 

When Hey wood Broun left the World to work for the Telegram , 
Mr. Swope looked around the office and offered his column to Elsie 
McCormick, who had shown a witty touch in the Sunday depart- 
ment. No one was more surprised than Miss McCormick herself, 
although she knew quite well how to fill a column and had done it 
with success for the China Press . 

It was not easy for anyone to follow Mr. Broun. His column was 
almost a religion to World readers, and the hard-to-please members 
of his own craft liked it. But Miss McCormick took hold. Three 
times a week her smooth prose flowed down the page, easy to read, 
enlivening to the intelligence. She had a graceful touch, a penetrating 
eye and a feministic turn of thought. Her favorite subject was 
China. It still is, for she spent the most exciting years of her life in 
the Orient. 

Miss McCormick was bom in San Francisco and began newspaper 



382 Ladies of the Press 

writing at the age of eleven when she ran a weekly column of school 
items in the News. The virus having thus entered her system, she 
continued to write for the Bulletin and other local papers during 
her years at the Convent of the Holy Name, Oakland High School 
and the University of California. After graduation she joined the 
staff of the Oakland Post-Enquirer and was the first woman to cover 
the local courthouse beat. Her amiable colleagues, who had nothing 
specific against her, said they would run her off the beat because 
women had a depressing effect on salaries. For weeks they traded 
news among themselves, leaving her to cover ten courts, the emer- 
gency hospital, the sheriff’s office and a few other items, all by her- 
self. However, gallant judges, prosecutors, and lawyers began to give 
her tips with instructions that she was not to tell the boys. One day 
when she had three exclusive stories on the front page, one of them 
carrying an eight-column head, she enjoyed hearing her competitors 
explaining simultaneously over the pressroom telephones just how 
they had come to be beaten. Next day the dean of the group an- 
nounced that they had decided it was mean and unfair to work 
against a girl, and that thereafter she would be accepted into the 
combination. She never again encountered any serious sex discrimina- 
tion in her newspaper work. 

One of her oddest adventures dates back to this period, when she 
went into a court room while an insanity hearing was in progress. 
The man in question had acquitted himself well. He had answered all 
questions intelligently and was insisting that he had been brought 
up for commitment only because some of his relatives coveted his 
estate. The judge was about to release him and rebuke the family 
when Miss McCormick appeared, wearing a yellow georgette hat. 
The man under detention rose to his feet, exclaiming, “There is the 
Virgin Mary with a beautiful golden halo around her head.” 

It took two attendants to hold him down. The judge at once 
apologized to the relatives and made out the commitment papers, 
while Miss McCormick vanished with speed that would have done 
credit to Nurmi. 

After a year of murders, accidents and alarms she went to New 
York and got a more soothing job doing publicity for the Meth- 
odist Centenary and the Interchurch World Movement. She was 
sent abroad a few weeks after the Armistice to write stories about 
their war work. She explored the devastated areas of France and 
Italy with eleven Methodist bishops and one bishop’s daughter. She 
has never told the full story. 

She managed to crash the Fourth Plenary Session of the Peace 
Conference, a feat which she undertook for a San Francisco paper. 



The Woman Columnist 383 

It was done by such chicanery as the use of a vaccination certificate 
on a gendarme who was not bilingual, and several other impish meas- 
ures known only to the ladies of the press. At last she reached the 
grand anteroom of the Quai d’Orsay, where a formidable major 
domo admitted those with proper passes and locked the door behind 
them, leaving Miss McCormick alone with the statuary. She finally 
got into the Chamber by ducking under the arm of the major domo 
when he opened the door for someone inside who wanted to get out. 

Soon after this Miss McCormick went to China for the Inter- 
church Movement. She liked the country so well that she stayed on 
after the financial collapse of the organization. For more than a year 
she ran a column for the China Press. Much of it was compiled later 
in two books, Audacious Angles on China and The Unexpurgated 
Diary of a Shanghai Baby. Once she went off into the interior of 
Shantung to interview the seventy-seventh generation descendant of 
Confucius. She had heard of the Confucian Duke, and she thought 
that there might be a good story in his reactions to the perplexities 
of the modern world. Her editor quite agreed, so Miss McCormick 
started out on what proved to be a formidable journey. She traveled 
north from Shanghai for twenty-four hours on the famous “Blue 
Train,” which turned out to be yellow inside and out from prairie 
dust. Then she changed to a local crowded with Chinese soldiers, 
their teapots and canaries. 

The railroad avoids Chu’fu, the burial place of Confucius, because 
the Chinese officials fear that the noise of the trains might disturb 
his hallowed slumbers. So Miss McCormick had to engage a Peking 
cart and go jolting over the country on two iron-studded wheels. 
The trip was complicated by the fact that her coolie driver found 
hilarious entertainment in a copy of Vogue she had and failed to 
keep to the two ruts that were supposed to be the highway. 

However, Miss McCormick scarcely noticed. She was lost in 
meditation, preparing lofty questions to put to the seventy-seventh 
descendant of Confucius. After many hours of travel she landed 
at last at Chu’fu. Not one white person lived anywhere about, but 
a Chinese, to whom she had a letter of introduction, invited her to 
spend the night with his family. Feeling somewhat overawed, and 
distinctly worried about the interview, Miss McCormick was taken 
next day to the ducal palace. She went through one stately anteroom 
after another, saw the great Confucian library and at last came to an 
inner courtyard of staggering beauty. There she met the Confucian 
Duke. 

Her interview with him was never printed, for he turned out to 
be two years old. 

Miss McCormick had a ringside seat at a number of local wars. She 



384 Ladies of the Press 

got used to pot shots, scampering Chinese and changing govern- 
ments. She made many trips into the interior of China and visited 
Japan, Korea and the Philippines. When she returned to New York 
she got a job in the Sunday department of the World merely by 
walking in with her scrapbook under her arm. After a year of doing 
special features she went off to China again, where she married Mar- 
shall L. Dunn, who was then in the publishing business in Shanghai. 
They took a four months’ honeymoon trip around the world, then 
settled in New York, and Miss McCormick resumed her work in 
the Sunday department of the World until she inherited Mr. Broun’s 
column. She was one of the mourners the night the paper was sold. 

In the summer of 1935 she flew more than 2,000 miles in Alaska 
and lived for a week in a homesteader’s shack in the Matanuska 
Valley, doing magazine pieces on what she saw. She has traveled 
far and wide and has had many adventures. But like most of the 
newspaper women who have given up the arena for the calm of 
the fireside, she likes her home, her friends, books, her leisure and 
the theater. She has only to touch the keys of her typewriter and 
the words ripple forth. It’s never a forgotten art. 

“Listen, World!” cries Elsie Robinson, a columnist whose audi- 
ence sits up and pays attention. She is not merely a writer but a dy- 
namic personality, suggesting open spaces, mining camps, life in 
the raw. She has experienced them all, and still fills her copy with 
ozone. Miss Robinson is reputed to reach an audience of 20,000,000 
persons. She is the most highly paid woman syndicate writer in the 
Hearst service. She is whole-hearted, original, intense. She deals in 
short words, short paragraphs, a punch in every line. Her copy is 
colloquial and pounds along with accelerated punctuation. Miss Rob- 
inson never tries to edify or make a sensitive approach to the intel- 
lectual. She pulls the heart strings. She is full of aphorisms-— original 
ones— and eupeptic philosophy. Go dig the drain, she tells the de- 
pressed. That was what she did herself when she was practically 
down and out. 

Miss Robinson has told her story in her own autobiography, l 
Wanted Out , one of the more naked confession books of the time. 
Her success has been dramatic. She skyrocketed in the Hearst or- 
ganization in less than a decade. Now a single article will evoke a 
thousand letters, for she paints with broad strokes that attract the 
eye. She has lived like a man, worked like a man. After years in a 
mining camp she returned to civilization at the age of thirty-six— 
lean, bronzed, her face furrowed, her gait the slouching stride of 
one who had spent years behind a wheelbarrow. Her looks were odd. 
She wore miners’ boots and a mackinaw. She was filled with terror, 
although she managed to mask her feelings. 



The Woman Columnist 385 

Today Miss Robinson is handsome, self-contained, successful. She 
has mastered fate to an exhilarating degree. She lives on her Cali- 
fornia ranch, watches the shadows fall over her land and blot out 
the Sierra, has as companion her third husband, Benton Fremont, 
an engineer. Life at last has settled into comparative order for her 
tempestuous soul. 

She was born in Benecia, California, in 1883. Her home was buried 
in roses and clematis. She ate polenta fresh from open braziers; 
waded for clams; talked to everyone who would listen to her. She 
was tall, rangy and eager. Then she married and spent ten unhappy 
years trying to adjust herself to a circumscribed life in New Eng- 
land. Her husband’s family disapproved of her. She had a wild and 
alien strain that they did not understand. And she could not warm 
to them. 

Her home was a prim house on a tidy street in Vermont. She 
couldn’t bear it. She longed to be free. Her son was ailing, so she 
took him and fled to the West. The next three years were com- 
pounded of physical hardship, mental anxiety, and the odd stimula- 
tion of the atmosphere in which she lived. For she had found refuge 
in a mining camp, where bootleggers, bandits, trappers, sheep herders 
and miners of every breed foregathered. Miss Robinson toiled like a 
navvy. She worked with pick and axe. She wheeled her barrow and 
trundled heavy loads. In her cabin she cooked flapjacks, painted 
pictures and wrote when not too tired to use her right arm. She 
listened to the fantastic stories of men whose pasts bore little in- 
vestigation. She watched her son gain health and strength in the 
good air. 

Then in 1918 she returned to the world she had left. She walked 
through Market Street, San Francisco, in a daze, with $50 in her 
pocket, borrowed from her mining friends. She took her son to a 
basement apartment. His health failed in the grime of city life. 
She couldn’t find a job. They both went hungry. September, Octo- 
ber, November, December— not a door opened for her. She almost 
gave up. She looked at the river one night and thought it was one 
way out. 

Miss Robinson had tried every newspaper office in San Francisco. 
But after touching bottom she decided to make one more effort. 
She crossed to Oakland. She interested the editor of the Oakland 
Tribune in her illustrated children’s stories. He took her on to do 
a weekly column of animal stories at $12 a week. Fan mail poured 
in at once from children. Within two months the column had 
become two full-sized weekly pages covering all sorts of juvenile 
interests. Then it became an eight-page tabloid magazine on Sun- 
days. There were Aunt Elsie picnics and parties. This went on for 



386 Ladies of the Press 

four years. In the second year the George Matthew Adams Service 
began syndicating her handicraft feature for children, and a cheer-up 
column for adults, which was called “Listen, World!” So her syn- 
dicate career began at $25 a week. She was thirty-eight years old at 
the time and celebrated by getting her first manicure and buying a 
pair of silk stockings. 

She was forty when she left her paper and walked into Fremont 
Older’s office. He was then editor of the Cali He and his wife were 
to help her over various crises in the years that followed. Soon she 
got a note from Arthur Brisbane, inviting her East. She went to the 
old Hearst building on William Street. 

“What means most to you?” Mr. Brisbane demanded. 

“Being a mother,” said Miss Robinson. 

“That’s enough,” he said. 

She signed a fat contract and became a Hearst writer. Money 
flowed into the empty coffers. She and her son could live in luxury 
at last. But two years later he died. She had pulled him through 
serious lung trouble. A trivial operation for a lump on his foot was 
fatal. This wiped away the foundations of her life again. She remar- 
ried but the experiment was not a success. She packed up one day 
and went into the mountains at Mr. Older’s suggestion. He thought 
that his favorite panacea of writing a serial might do her good. 

So in 1929 she went to Sonora and found the Chinese lilies and 
daffodils in bloom. She studied the skv and the rolling land and 
decided that this was where she would like to settle. She built a 
summer camp. It is now an established ranch with twenty acres of 
vineyard, ten houses, and plenty of livestock. Miss Robinson does 
not cover spot news but occasionally she travels to keep in touch 
with what is going on. In 1932 she wrote about the Bonus March. 
Back in the nineties she had seen men marching to join Coxey’s 
army. 

Long before “Listen, World!” burst like a thunderclap on Hearst 
readers, Ruth Cameron’s column was known throughout the coun- 
try. Written by Persis Dwight Hannah, it has been going for 
twenty-seven years and is syndicated in hundreds of papers. It car- 
ries various heads but is most generally known as “The Woman Phi- 
losopher” or “Says She.” 

In 1907, when the Boston papers were just beginning to employ 
college girls, Miss Hannah, a graduate of Tufts, read a serial in the 
Saturday Evening Post called “The Autobiography of a Yellow 
Journalist.” It was a gay narrative that rang bells in her head. Her 
family wanted her to teach Latin. But Miss Hannah was determined 
to be a girl reporter. The life of the yellow journalist seemed to be 
one round of giddy adventure. She lapped it up. This, she thought, 



The Woman Columnist 387 

was the career for her. So she threw her lexicon out of the window 
and began to pester city editors, in spite of her father’s opposition. 
When friends asked him what his daughter was doing, he told them 
sadly that she had joined the circus. 

But the joining was not easy. Editors rebuffed her. They told her 
she must have experience. 

“But how did the men get started?” she asked, logically enough. 

“Oh, sweeping out the office,” she was told by one city editor. 

“Well,” said Miss Hannah. “I can do that, too.” 

Finally she had to use pull to get started, and at first she worked 
for nothing. Presently she was accepted at $10 a week on the Boston 
Journal , then owned by Mr. Munsey. She was one-quarter of the 
infinitesimal staff, and did straight news as well as occasional sob 
sister features— how it felt to live with a broken neck; how it felt to 
go through the Boston subway when it was a maze of mud and 
twisted wires. 

Miss Hannah has an unforgettable mental picture of Julia Ward 
Howe, in lavender and old lace, sitting in a throne-like chair in her 
Beacon Street bay window. Her most exciting moment was when 
she was stoned out of a camp by gypsies who were furious because 
the camera man had taken their pictures, and they regarded this as 
bad luck. The photographer fled, having urged Miss Hannah to 
stay behind and keep the Romany troupe from breaking his camera. 

After two years of active reporting on the Journal she moved 
over to the Traveller , where she was known as Phoebe Dwight. 
George Matthew Adams was just starting his syndicate and he asked 
her to write a daily talk for women. In this way the Ruth Cameron 
feature was born. The original idea was to make it a strictly femi- 
nine column, but Miss Hannah found that she could not keep within 
this limitation, so she turned out a column of general interest. 

In 1912 she married Royal Brown, who was then executive editor 
of the Boston Journal , where he had started as a cub reporter. 
She reads every line of his fiction output, which is prolific, since he 
has more than three hundred short stories and novelettes to his 
credit. The Browns live for the greater part of the year at Huma- 
rock, Massachusetts, in a house which they built during the war, 
and to which thev have added from time to time. It is a home of 
hard work, for husband and wife turn out a staggering number of 
words each year. 

Another newspaper woman who has recently joined the syndicate 
ranks is Helen Worden, who knows New York as the historian, 
the antiquarian, the epicure, the genealogist might know it, all 
wrapped into one. She is familiar with the drawing-rooms of Park 
Avenue and the barge life of the East River. She knows who every- 



388 Ladies of the Tress 

body’s grandfather was and the recipe he used for his punch. Her 
curiosity is insatiable; the facts she collects are odd and absorbing. 
The result is a column of singular interest which appears in the 
World-Telegram in New York. 

Miss Worden has silver hair and a youthful face, large brown 
eyes and a graceful manner. She runs her own column to suit her- 
self. It has grown up spontaneously. One thing has led to another. 
She follows sports and social events. She goes wherever she thinks 
a story is forthcoming. She discovered early that newspaper readers 
like facts, so she gives them plenty. She runs short paragraphs, short 
sentences, with no essential continuity. But each paragraph carries 
the piquant answer to some minor matter that at one time or another 
has roused one’s curiosity. It may be the old house at the corner, or 
the plane tree inside a railing, or the gas lamp over somebody’s door, 
or the gargoyle in the eaves, or the old lady with antiquated habits 
who never leaves her house. She is an artist as well as a writer and 
does tiny humorous sketches to go with her column. The old lady 
with the lorgnette. The Peter Amo colonel. The galloping horse. 
The waving palms. Arnold, her cat. Henry Hawkins, her parrot. 
Each paragraph is a separate vignette. 

Until she was twenty-eight Miss Worden was sure that her life 
work was art. She studied portraiture in schools in New York, 
Paris and Denver. She is a native of Denver, and was brought East 
when she was two years old. Her first observations of metropolitan 
life were gleaned in Rector’s, where a special high chair was kept 
for her. Until 1906 she shuttled back and forth between Denver and 
New York, attending private schools and absorbing American his- 
tory from her grandfather, Colonel Wilbert Barton Teters. Both he 
and his daughter, Mrs. Worden, were students of the dramatic and 
unusual in American history, so that Helen was more or less bom 
with the inquiring mind. Her father, Charles George Worden, 
studied law and then turned to newspaper work. At the time of his 
death he was editing Two Republics , the first American newspaper 
in Mexico City. 

Miss Worden’s newspaper career started in Denver. She wandered 
into the Community -Herald one May day with a portfolio of her 
drawings. It was Denver’s smallest newspaper, a weekly founded 
for the promotion of Music Week. She asked for the editor and 
was motioned to the rear of the office by the typesetter. The staff 
consisted of Michael Factorovitch, the publisher, whose name was 
Niehaus, and the editor, whose identity was soon made known to 
Miss Worden. 

“He’s a young fellow from New York,” the typesetter explained. 
“We just got him. His name’s Jed Harris.” 



The Woman Columnist 389 

Herbert Belford, who worked on the New York Times , had 
turned up in Denver to see his sister, “Pinky” Wayne, who is on 
the Denver Post . Jed Harris had gone West with him. He was on 
his way to Honolulu to conduct an orchestra. But he never reached 
Hawaii. Herbert got him a job on the Community -Herald the day 
before Miss Worden showed up with her drawings. The youth, who 
was later to become a successful producer on Broadway, was twenty- 
one and took himself seriously. 

“I might use your drawings if you could write some stuff to go 
with them,” he said. “But I can’t pay much.” 

Jed, Helen and Factorovitch got out the paper. She made $12 a 
week. The office was so small that they couldn’t all get in at once, 
so they met each noon in a fish house nearby to talk things over. 
Jed was hot-tempered then, as he still is. He wrote editorials that 
gave Mr. Niehaus the jitters because the advertisers did not care for 
them. Three months after Miss Worden had joined the staff, he 
stormed into the fish house one day, white with anger. He had had 
another battle with Mr. Niehaus. 

“I’m through,” he announced. “I’m going back to New York.” 

It was an exciting afternoon in the restaurant. The fish in the 
window tanks swished their tails as Jed roared and stalked about the 
room. He drew up a letter addressed to Mr. Niehaus. It was signed 
by Miss Worden, by Factorovitch and bv Jed. It contained their 
resignations. They felt that Mr. Niehaus had not been loyal to 
principle. He was too much interested in advertising. The Com - 
vnniity -Herald failed to appear on the newsstands that week. Mr. 
Niehaus could not make the grade without them. 

In 1925 Miss Worden went to Paris to continue her art studies. 
She spent a year at Andre L’hote’s Academy. She visited London, 
Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan. She returned to New York with 
samples of her work. She had several line drawings of people in the 
news. It occurred to her that some newspaper might buy them. 
She studied the classified telephone directory and made a list of all 
the New York papers. She decided to try the World . 

Will (“Limpy”) Johnston was then the feature editor. He looked 
at her drawings and was interested in them. “I think we can use 
some of your work if you write something to go with it,” he told 
her. For the next six years she worked on the metropolitan section 
of the Sunday World with Louis Weitzenkom. She did three fea- 
tures and illustrated them with her miniature sketches. The first, a 
cooking column, was called “Sally Lunn,” the second was a strip 
known as “Fashions of the Theatre,” and the third was “Belle 
Brummel,” a style column which she still does for the World-Tele- 
gram , She also did special articles for Mr. Weitzenkom. 



390 Ladies of the Press 

The third week she was on the World she ran into Arthur Krock 
in the office one day. 

“What are you getting a week?” he asked. 

“Space rates,” said Miss Worden. “I average $7.50.” 

“My God!” said Mr. Krock. 

Next week her salary was doubled. At the end of two years she 
was working also for the Evening World . She started its society 
page and ran a feature called “What Society is Wearing.” She did 
special interviews and got out the fashion section. Occasionally she 
did stories for James Robbins, who was then sports editor. By that 
time she was making so much that she was taken off space and was 
put on the regular staff. 

Her most difficult assignments for the W orld were an interview 
with Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, another with Mrs. Charles M. 
Schwab, and a contest she conducted on how to spend $10,000,000 
for the good of humanity. The Lindbergh story was written just 
after the birth of the baby who later was kidnapped. The Colonel 
gave a revealing interview to Miss Worden. He talked to her for an 
hour and a half and told her how he would like to bring up his son, 
although it was not his habit to discuss his personal affairs. On the 
night the baby was kidnapped, George Lyon called her at her home 
and asked her to revise the interview for next day’s paper. It was the 
most intimate story that had been written on the Colonel’s own am- 
bitions for his child. 

Mrs. Schwab was another of the inaccessibles, put down in every 
newspaper office as hopeless for interviews. Miss Worden’s story 
made the front page because it settled the recurrent rumors that 
the Schwab mansion on Riverside Drive would be sold. For two 
weeks Mrs. Schwab refused to see Miss Worden or to give her a 
message of any sort. 

“Why don’t you go to Mr. Schwab?” her friends asked. “He 
will give you the story.” 

But Miss Worden thought that the story did not lie in him. The 
house was Mrs. Schwab’s home, so she stuck at it until she got what 
she wanted. 

“Never, as long as I live, shall I sell the house,” said Mrs. Schwab. 

Through Josef Sigall, the artist, Miss Worden first met C. Harold 
Smith, the carbon king with a fortune of $30,000,000 which he 
planned to divide with his fellow men. He had written a biography, 
The Bridge of Life , and he wanted to put it across. It meant more 
to him than his millions. He planned a campaign on the provoca- 
tive theme, “How Would You Spend $10,000,000 to Aid Human- 
ity?” When he sat beside Miss Worden at dinner one night he pro- 



The Woman Columnist 391 

posed that the Evening World should run a contest with prizes for 
the best scheme submitted. 

Miss Worden named a committee to run the campaign. On it 
were Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Emory Buckner, Dr. Alfred Adler, 
Frederic C. Coudert and the Rev. Dr. S. Parkes Cadman. The prize 
for the best plan offered was $1,000 and daily prizes of $10 were 
distributed for letters on how the money should be spent. All sorts 
of panaceas were submitted. A number of celebrities contributed 
their ideas. More than 100,000 letters were received, four-fifths of 
them of the begging order. The Associated Press carried the story 
all over the world. In India a poster advertised the campaign on the 
side of a caravan. Dr. Henry E. Garrett, professor of psychology at 
Columbia, won the $1,000 prize with his plan for an institute of 
mental hygiene, where research would be conducted into neuroses, 
and juvenile delinquents would be studied scientifically. 

It was a stiff job for Miss Worden. Five readers helped her to weed 
out the letters. She submitted the best contributions to the commit- 
tee. When it was over, Mr. Smith, a kindly philanthropist with a 
handle-bar mustache, gave a banquet, decked Mrs. Roosevelt and 
Miss Worden with corsages and gave Dr. Garrett his prize. But 
before anything could be done about the $10,000,000 the crash 
came. Mr. Smith’s fortune shrank to $4,000,000. His wife became 
desperately ill. He took her to European watering places, hoping 
for her recovery. But he dropped dead by her bedside in 1931 as she 
lay in her own death coma. 

Soon after this Miss Worden began to concentrate on her obser- 
vations of New York. She makes a mental record of a street when 
she is out walking. Her mind is photographic and she has alert 
eyes for the odd and unusual. She knows all the little shopkeepers 
and most of the big ones. She follows the doings of the smart world 
but devotes most of her time to tracking down clues in out-of-the- 
way spots. She knows policemen, firemen, street-cleaners, newsboys, 
head waiters and politicians. At a moment’s notice she can dig up 
peasant glassware from Majorca, sharp-bladed weapons from Arabia, 
gilded weathercocks for steeple vanes, or old Valentines. She can tell 
the bom New Yorker where to find Alexandroff, the Russian letter 
writer of the East Side, or platinum-haired Maizie, Queen of the 
Venice on the Bowery. She knows the eating places of every race 
as well as the chefs of New York’s smartest restaurants and hotels. 
Occasionally she gives her readers a choice recipe for food or drink. 
Her information is practical and specific. 

On a waterfront tour of New York she and Mrs. Theodore Stein- 
way skipped over crates and skirted dock diggings, made friends 
with rivermen, watchmen and innkeepers, were welcomed royally 



392 Ladies of the Press 

in some quarters and ordered out of others. They took ten different 
days to do their thirty-three mile trek around the island. They 
carried small cameras in their pockets. Miss Worden took few notes 
along the way. She believes that pad and pencil silence people more 
effectively than anything else. They lunched at hot dog stands and 
diners. They never carried more than a couple of dollars in their 
purses. Their discoveries were revelatory of the little known side of 
New York. They found a wooden Indian in front of a snuff shop 
at 396 Water Street. Lavender grew in Hannah Murray’s yard on 
Front Street, surrounded by a picket fence and shaded by a plantain 
tree. A thundershower drove them into a stable, and they soon 
discovered that the owner and his secretary had been murdered 
there not long before. They found houses built before the Revolu- 
tion standing along the waterfront beside soaring skyscrapers. They 
learned that New Yorkers fished from their back yards; they ex- 
plored Patchtown, peopled by the unemployed; Itch Park, the ren- 
dezvous of the upper Bowery district, and River House, one of New 
York’s most fashionable dwelling places— all strung along the water- 
front. They looked over A 1 Smith’s alma mater, the Fulton Fish 
Market, which he has described as the finest college in the world. 
They investigated St. Luke’s Place, the home of James J. Walker and 
Starr Faithfull, both of whom captured their share of front-page 
space. They watched egg candlers juggling eggs in the West Wash- 
ington Market and studied the haunts of the river pirates, who make 
off with monkey wrenches, life preservers, rope and odds and ends 
of river grist. TTiey found the oldest apothecary in the city and the 
shop where one can buy an astrolabe. They talked to the descend- 
ants of the windjammers’ captains who live now in the neighborhood 
of Corlear’s Hook Park, and listening to them, saw the ghosts of 
white-sailed ships slip by. 

Miss Worden has written two books about her favorite city. One 
is called The Real New York . The other is Round Manhattan's Rim , 
which is based chiefly on her walk around the waterfront. She is 
working now on a book on underground New York and another 
on the social circus. In the spring of 1935 she started a syndicated 
column called “Miss Manhattan” for the Scripps-Howard chain. Her 
mother shares her interest in historical research. She writes for the 
magazines and has done 350 articles of the Captain Kidd order- 
old bandit crimes and duels of river pirates. Her aunt, Lou Ellen 
Teters, was woman’s editor of Delineator when it first appeared on 
the newsstands. Miss Worden lives with her mother on Park Ave- 
nue. They go wherever news is stirring. First nights. Cup races. 
Hunting. Polo. Racing. The spectacular parties. Smart weddings. 



The Woman Columnist 393 

Her column runs alongside the regular social news and supplements 
it in a chatty and informative way. 

What Miss Worden does for New York, the town, Alice Hughes 
does for its shops. Eight years ago she started a shopping column of 
such originality, profit and interest that it quickly became one of 
the valuable newspaper properties of metropolitan journalism. It 
first became known in the World-Telegram , then she went over to 
Hearst and it now appears in the American . 

Miss Hughes is a power in the merchandising world. Her value is 
inseparable from her own personality. She started out with a smart 
idea, and put it across by skilled handling. She has many copyists 
now, some of them good, but hers is the name that tops the history 
of the shopping column. She is slim, dark, still in her manner. Her 
face is touched with melancholy. She parts her hair severely in the 
middle, speaks thoughtfully, surveys the world with slightly tilted 
eyes. But her somber air is deceptive. She is alert, ingratiating, vivid 
in her interests, optimistic in her outlook. She believes that good for- 
tune comes to those who believe completely in what they are doing. 
She herself moves in the mystical aura of success. 

By 9.30 every morning her car is parked in front of one of the 
big shops. She likes to watch the early shoppers flood the aisles, keen 
for bargains. She is curious to see what they are after. Some days 
she gets to a dozen stores, not making a cursory inspection of the 
counters but going behind the scenes and talking to the men and 
women who run the shop. She knows their trade secrets and has a 
shrewd idea of the value of their wares. She is not aggressive, but is 
smart at unearthing facts. 

Miss Hughes grew up in New Hampshire. She attended the Co- 
lumbia School of Journalism, then for six months she read manu- 
scripts at $25 a week for Detective Story Magazine. She had a 
columnist’s job on the American as far back as 1923, but it was not 
the hit it is today. It was called “Mary Jane’s Household Guide.” 
She made $45 a week but was lured into advertising for more money. 
She seemed to have special aptitude in this direction, in spite of 
her yearning to do some other kind of writing. It kept cropping out, 
no matter what she did. She studied typography, engraving, lay- 
outs. She associated with artists. She was appointed advertising 
manager of the shop where she had started. 

She was married the day she left college, but the more her career 
advanced, the greater was her domestic unhappiness. She gave up 
her job and went to Europe, hoping that things would straighten 
out. They didn’t. On her return she went to Columbus, Ohio, and 
did advertising there. But things went from bad to worse. Again she 
went to Europe. On her return she got a job in the advertising de- 



394 Ladies of the Press 

partment of Macy’s. She plunged with her usual enthusiasm into 
the study of promotion, exploitation, merchandising. She enter- 
tained her friends with stories of the life in the shop. One of the 
editors of the World who heard her said, “Why don’t you write 
these stories? I’ll print them. They’re good.” 

So she began contributing features to the Sunday World . When 
the Telegram was bought by Mr. Howard, Macy’s advertising was 
sought by the Scripps-Howard interests. It appeared in the other 
afternoon papers but not in the Telegram. Miss Hughes at the time 
was head of the apparel advertising group. On Fridays the afternoon 
papers were so glutted with advertising that no single display had 
any distinction. She saw that the Telegram had plenty of unspoiled 
white paper and she urged Macy’s to try it. They did, to good 
effect. The Scripps-Howard organization was grateful to Miss 
Hughes. When she approached Mr. Howard with an idea for a sup- 
porting news column for shops, such as books and the theater had, 
she was taken on the staff. Almost immediately the column caught on. 
Before long she and Heywood Broun appeared on the same page. 
This was admirable for her. When surveys were made, their com- 
bined pull was found to be heavy. 

Miss Hughes has been described in turn as a retailing reporter, a 
fashion columnist, a store scout, a style commentator. She prefers to 
be known simply as a reporter. She started out to give human in- 
terest sidelights on the stores. She delved into the history of mer- 
chandising and the involved processes that precede its appearance in 
purchasable form. She tried to divorce herself from the ordinary 
glamour words of advertising and fashion writing. She realized that 
an idea was always better than an adjective. Her advertising training 
had taught her to think in headline terms, which was useful for a 
column of this kind. It gave concentration to her style. 

She had a hard time at first persuading the merchants of the merit 
of what she was doing. She had to sell herself as one who would be 
discreet. At first they were suspicious when she came to them with 
a thousand searching questions. Then her column began to get re- 
sults. She would mention a shop and the next day crowds swarmed 
in. This was effective for Miss Hughes, as well as for the tradesman. 
It was hard work. It took four years to reach the point where 
they came to her. At first she had to do all the plugging. The shops 
were far apart. The advertising managers were always in remote 
comers on the top floor. She would come home exhausted from the 
day’s round. But Miss Hughes herself has wrought a miraculous 
change in the publicity methods of the department stores. She is re- 
sponsible for the creation of many jobs. Now every large shop has 
a regular publicity staff to feed the shoppers’ columns which have 



The Woman Columnist 395 

sprung up everywhere. The columnists are swamped with releases. 
As soon as a new gadget reaches the market they get a full account 
of its merits. 

Miss Hughes pioneered in rather dangerous territory, since the 
relation of the department store to the newspaper is one requiring 
tact. Some of the merchants liked the exploitation of store personali- 
ties at first; others detested it. But now they are all avid for the shop- 
ping columns and the newspapers have found them profitable fea- 
tures. They appear all over the country. Kay Austin does a good 
one for the World-Telegram and Cecile Gilmore for the Post in 
New York. 

Miss Hughes was not the first pe